Paper 4: Social Structure and Successful Aging

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.

Continue reading