, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 171-178,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 07 Oct 2012

Advancing Research on Productive Aging Activities in Greater Chinese Societies


The public discourse on productive aging as a research and policy initiative has just begun in greater China. Two conferences in Mainland China in 2009 and 2011 and subsequent conferences in Taiwan and Hong Kong in 2012 have set it in motion. Because applied social science research has just started in greater China, researchers in Chinese societies will benefit from the experience and rich literature accumulated over the last three decades in the West. In this paper, I review and reflect on the research methods used in productive aging research in both Chinese societies and in the West. I believe that to advance productive aging research in greater China, we need to (1) discuss and agree upon a definition of productive aging, (2) identify and differentiate outputs and outcomes of productive aging activities in greater China, (3) develop precise measures for productive aging involvement, (4) focus on institutional (program and public policy) factors that promote productive aging involvement, (5) use a strong research design (such as a quasi-experimental design) to establish the internal validity of productive aging programs, and (6) be theory-driven. Lastly, productive aging should be seen as a choice, not an obligation for older people; otherwise, the productive aging agenda will be seen as exploiting older people. It is important that Chinese researchers and policy-makers have this in mind when they are advocating productive engagement of older people in China.