Successful aging and well-being: self-rated compared with Rowe and Kahn

William J Strawbridge, Margaret I Wallhagen, Richard D Cohen
Gerontologist 2002, 42 (6): 727-33

PURPOSE: This research evaluates the utility of two different definitions of successful aging in predicting well-being.

DESIGN AND METHODS: We assessed the definitions of (a) self-rating and (b) Rowe and Kahn's criteria of absence of disease, disability, and risk factors; maintaining physical and mental functioning; and active engagement with life. We made associations with well-being for each definition using data from 867 Alameda County Study participants aged 65-99 years.

RESULTS: The percentage of those rating themselves as aging successfully was 50.3% compared with 18.8% classified according to Rowe and Kahn's criteria. Although absence of chronic conditions and maintaining functioning were positively associated with successful aging for both definitions, many participants with chronic conditions and with functional difficulties still rated themselves as aging successfully; none were so classified according to Rowe and Kahn's criteria. On 14 of 15 measures, self-rated successful aging resulted in sharper contrasts for well-being.

IMPLICATIONS: Understanding criteria used by older persons to assess their own successful aging should enhance the conceptualization and measurement of this elusive concept.

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