Aging Successfully




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Successful aging is an experience governed by gender, culture, personality, and health-related factors. For some, successful aging simply means freedom from disability, while for others it is a more comprehensive assessment of life satisfaction. With an aging population, our society needs to evaluate what it means to ‘age successfully’ and how we – as healthcare providers or as families, friends, and neighbors – can help the elderly among us achieve and maintain valuable years near the end of their lives.

Successful aging involves subjective criteria that are difficult to assess with objective measurements. But recently, new studies have been published that attempt to do just that. Measurements and assessments have included self-rated health, participation in activities of daily living, independence, depression, cognition, walking time and distance, number of days spent in bed, strength of extremities, recent hospitalizations, perceived resilience, personality traits, and overall life satisfaction.

Across several studies, high levels of resilience and low levels of depression and physical disability were associated with more successful aging. No cause and effect can be concluded from the studies, but the results support the role of mental health in successful aging. Associations between sociodemographic factors are complex and inconsistent. In a recent gerontology analysis, wisdom was deemed an important factor in successful aging. People considered to be ‘wise’ – generally identified as those with superior judgment, insight, and spirituality – have better mental health and well-being than other people because they tend to participate in meaningful activities.

Perception is reality when it comes to aging successfully: if a person feels she has aged well, then she has. If, on the other hand, she does not believe she has aged successfully, she has not, regardless of objective measurements. Another recent study in Gerontologist concluded that elderly people who self-reported successful aging, despite a high level of physical disability among the population evaluated, used adaptation and coping strategies to align their perception of successful aging with their own experiences.

Still, improved physical and emotional functioning do lead to more successful aging. Not surprisingly, many factors that influence physical and emotional well-being are not confined to life’s golden years, and variables that predict successful aging are apparent long before old age begins. Even young and middle-aged adults can control variables of biopsychosocial health, such as alcohol and tobacco use, marital stability, physical activity, body mass index, stress management, and education, that affect subjective and objective measurements of successful aging.

Understanding personal, cultural, and clinical perceptions of successful aging can lead to identification of interventions that can put healthy, wealthy, and wise years in your life and life in your years.

References

Jeste, D. (2013). Association Between Older Age and More Successful Aging: Critical Role of Resilience and Depression American Journal of Psychiatry, 170 (2) DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2012.12030386

Kavirajan H, Vahia IV, Thompson WK, Depp C, Allison M, & Jeste DV (2011). Attitude Toward Own Aging and Mental Health in Post-menopausal Women. Asian journal of psychiatry, 4 (1), 26-30 PMID: 21607197

Romo RD, Wallhagen MI, Yourman L, Yeung CC, Eng C, Micco G, Pérez-Stable EJ, & Smith AK (2012). Perceptions of Successful Aging Among Diverse Elders with Late-Life Disability. The Gerontologist PMID: 23231944

Thielke S, & Diehr P (2012). Transitions among Health States Using 12 Measures of Successful Aging in Men and Women: Results from the Cardiovascular Health Study. Journal of aging research, 2012 PMID: 23193476

Vaillant GE, & Mukamal K (2001). Successful aging. The American journal of psychiatry, 158 (6), 839-47 PMID: 11384887

Webster JD, Westerhof GJ, & Bohlmeijer ET (2012). Wisdom and Mental Health Across the Lifespan. The journals of gerontology. Series B, Psychological sciences and social sciences PMID: 23275496

Image via Supri Suharjoto / Shutterstock.

  • onergk69

    Jennifer & others,

    In courses I teach, we review factors related to normative, delayed, & premature aging. Across cultures, W outlive M by 5 ~ 7 years. So life choices & affordances + genetics determines the above outcomes.

    Rich

    • http://www.nrsign.com NR Sign EEG

      W outlive M by 5 ~ 7 years, is that more gender or life choices?

      Should M partner with W 5 ~ 7 years older to be more synchronized?

      • onergk69

        NR Sign EEG,

        Women engage in less risk taking behavior, & their hormones afford protection. They are also more proactive in seeking healthcare. Our testosterone affords greater risk.

        And yes, better age-fit is useful. However, when we men live beyond 80, F’s outnumber us by 2:1. So I like these odds!

        Rich

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  • http://www.fibroidsmiraclereport.com Kari Wilson

    I agree that the measurement of “aging well” is how the subject person feels about it, and not what someone tells them or whether they match up well with the statistics. As time goes by the bar must be lowered for certain expectations but interestingly this can make the aging person happier and more content.

  • http://mastercleanseinfo.net Max

    Having just developed a disability at age 56, I have to agree ” aging well” is entirely subjective. I look young. Many people think I’m 10 to 15 years younger that I am.I i feel older than my years. A conundrum. Well they says it’s better to look marvelous than to feel marvelous.

  • lilyana

    Old age, believe me, is a good and pleasant thing. It is true you are gently shouldered off the stage, but then you are given such a comfortable front stall as spectator.
    but to keep living here you need to maintain that you have right now. And the best way to maintain all you have is an exercise, spending you’re time to relax and take some medicines that appropriate to you’re health. to checked what i am telling with is try to checked the link below..

    http://supahmeds.com/?id=agent_156

  • http://healthyrevolution.net Jan

    I agree, your as old as you feel. And you must take care of yourself to feel as good as you possible can

  • http://sourcenaturalwellness.com/ Sergio Anacleto

    Really good article!

    Aging is a Journey, and with it comes challenges ones must learn how to deal with. If we can smile and be happy as we go thru that journey then aging becomes easier. I’m happy to be aging and being happy with it.

  • Jacob edward

    An aging causes an overview of damage-based theories of aging, including those related to oxidative stress, protein and DNA damage.

Jennifer Gibson, PharmD

Jennifer Gibson, PharmD, is a practicing clinical pharmacist and medical writer/editor with experience in researching and preparing scientific publications, developing public relations materials, creating educational resources and presentations, and editing technical manuscripts. She is the owner of Excalibur Scientific, LLC.
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