Aging well across the lifespan

This Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief summarizes key points of the workshop presentations and discussions. A comprehensive summary of the workshop will be publicly available in a forthcoming full-length Proceedings of a Workshop. The information and opinions presented during the workshop and highlighted here are those of individual workshop participants and should not be construed as consensus on the part of the Food Forum, the Heath and Medicine Division of the National Academies, or any other group. More than 46 million people over the age of 65 years were living in the United States in and more than 70 million are predicted by see Figure 1.

Aging well across the lifespan

Copyright notice This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Population aging is a trend that will bring new social, political, and economic demands to countries throughout the world 1. Without proactive steps to create individual and environmental changes that promote aging well, the escalating costs of health and social support systems for an aging population will be unsustainable both domestically and worldwide 2.

The concept of aging well, which is based on a nonmedical approach to promoting health and well-being, is fundamental to increasing length and quality of life. Aging well promotes personal behaviors and life-course environments that limit functional declines, especially Aging well across the lifespan caused by chronic conditions, to help older adults maintain their independence and health.

Aging well emphasizes the idea that people can maintain satisfying and healthy lives as they age by exercising the choices that optimize healthy, active, and secure lives 134.

Aging well is a dynamic, interactive process that creates long-term, positive change by involving individuals in the physical, social, economic, historical, and cultural contexts of their environments. Development of an aging-well framework fits well with articulated health goals for the United States and the international community 5.

While many countries have made significant gains in addressing national health objectives, a nonmedical framework for aging well has not yet been fully developed. This knowledge gap persists in spite of evidence linking one or more specific areas, such as social support, physical activity, and material security, to longevity and quality of life.

Although no single formula automatically results in aging well, research conducted by Fry and colleagues provides several illustrations of factors that contribute to aging well in different cultures 6. For example, in Hong Kong a comfortable old age is marked by family and social qualities that demonstrate open-mindedness and tolerance.

In the United States, engagement, vitality, and activity are associated with aging well. As Fry and colleagues point out, "Having good health and comfortable pensions does not hurt either.

Research supports the concept of aging well 157 - Current international research efforts are moving forward from identifying the determinants of aging well to testing an integrated model and investigating viable individual and environmental indices of aging well. These research initiatives will help to identify populations, environments, services, programs, and public policies that support the continued involvement of older adults in positive, productive, and healthy living.

One example of such an initiative grew out of the 21st-century research agenda on aging developed by the United Nations and the International Association of Gerontology.

The agenda outlines research goals related to healthy aging, quality of life, and measurements of active aging 5. These research goals provided the original impetus and continuing direction for 25 researchers from 12 countries to convene in June at Indiana University to develop a multinational research collaboration.

This project is using comparable data sets from the 12 member nations to develop an individual index of aging that is comparable within and across countries. This index will give policy makers a clearer and more comprehensive understanding of the factors that affect aging well.

These findings can be applied in developing and evaluating social policies and services that will promote aging well across the life span. The GARNet index measures items in each of the following five domains of aging well: A broad range of research and theoretical literature supports the importance of each domain.

Physical health and functional status. In cross-cultural studies of aging, good physical health and functional status have been associated with aging well 6. According to studies conducted by the MacArthur Foundation Network on Successful Aging, poor health in old age is largely attributable to the effects of multiple lifestyle choices and life conditions, such as physical inactivity, poor diet, and smoking, that increase the risk for disease or disability Thus, maximizing physical health involves reducing these risk factors for disease and disability Indicators for this determinant include health status, doctor and hospital visits, medication and supplement use, assistive device use, health promotion behavior, health risk behavior, and measures of functional independence associated with activities of daily living.


A critical domain of aging well is cognitive functioning, especially the cognitive effectiveness necessary to maintain the daily activities associated with overall health. Research by Baltes described two fundamentally different influences on the aging mind 8.

The first, cognitive mechanics, is genetically endowed; the other, cognitive pragmatics, is culturally learned. Baltes speculates that older adults who lead effective lives use a framework of self-management and practical knowledge cognitive pragmatics to optimize gains and compensate for losses in cognitive mechanics.

This view of cognitive efficacy fits well with descriptions of aging well.

Aging well across the lifespan

Indicators in this domain include measures of self-esteem, perceived control, resilience, and mental well-being. A strong network of friends and family has long been recognized as an important contributor to good health in old age.

Isolation or the lack of a strong social network places people at increased risk for poor health. Furthermore, a strong social support network can actually buffer or reduce some of the effects of aging Live Well Across the Lifespan in San Diego.

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Jun 15,  · Across the cultures studied, determinants that are important to aging well — including physical health, mental effectiveness, material security, social resources and relationships, and meaningful daily activity — are common, but their relative contributions may vary.

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