Peter Martin1, Norene Kelly1, Eva Kahana2, Boaz Kahana2, Leonard W. Poon3
1Iowa State University
2Case Western University
3University of Georgia
This is the first of five papers to review and define the notion of “successful aging” — a term that is commonly used in the gerontological literature as both a process and an outcome with significant amount of research in the last fifty years on its meanings, models, measurement, interpretations, and implications for applications. If one ages successful, it implies that one has successfully “added years to life and life to years” — a goal all of us would want to achieve. Policy makers would want to instill programs that would lead its citizens to achieve some measurable benchmarks of successful aging. Yet, after 50 years of research and discussion, there is still significant amount of ambiguity on the definition and application of the mechanisms of successful aging.
1Norene Kelly, 1Peter Martin, 2Leonard W. Poon, et al.
1Iowa State University
2University of Georgia
This paper is designed as a stand-alone review with the expressed goal of supplementing the initial “definition” paper (Martin et al.) by performing a literature search on historically key discussions on successful aging. The paper systematically decomposes the key concepts to provide bases for discussion of new directions and next steps of research.
Christine L. Fry
Professor Emerita of Anthropology
Loyola University of Chicago
The first two papers in this series provided a brief history of the conceptualization of successful aging followed by a summary of key papers in a historical sequence. As noted in the first definition paper, an important criticism of the model produced by the McArthur successful aging project is the sociological and contextual impact is lacking (Riley, et. al, 1972). The degree of departure from usual physical, psychological, and social aging in defining successful aging needs to be interpreted from the standpoint of the society in which the individual resides and ages. Our environment also defines our levels of development, and different environments over one’s lifetime accentuate, limit, or circumscribe our potentials. This paper outlines the complexity of our environment in terms of social structure and networks, as well as individual differences in exchanges, interdependency, kinship, and support systems over one’s lifetime. The paper provides another level of complexity of aging in which successful aging is defined.