Paper 1: Defining Successful Aging: A Tangible or Elusive Concept?

Peter Martin1, Norene Kelly1, Eva Kahana2, Boaz Kahana2, Leonard W. Poon3

1Iowa State University
2Case Western University
3University of Georgia

Introduction

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.

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