Living Reference Work Entry

Mental Health and Illness of the Elderly

Part of the series Mental Health and Illness Worldwide pp 1-22

Date: Latest Version

Successful Aging

  • Rujvi KamatAffiliated withSam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging, University of CaliforniaDepartment of Psychiatry, University of California Email author 
  • , Averria Sirkin MartinAffiliated withSam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging, University of California
  • , Dilip V. JesteAffiliated withSam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging, University of California

Abstract

Over the course of history, aging has been considered a period of progressive physical, cognitive, and psychosocial declines, yet more recently there is growing evidence that challenges this purely deficit-driven view of aging. In fact, numerous studies have documented improvements in psychological well-being across the life-span, despite age-related declines in physical and cognitive functioning. This subjective well-being in the face of physical limitations is thought to reflect successful aging. Here, we review the definitions, predictors, and biobehavioral mechanisms of successful aging. There are numerous perspectives on what constitutes successful aging and as such a consensus regarding its definition is lacking. Nonetheless, a number of studies have characterized the biologic, environmental, and social determinants of successful aging using often overlapping operational definitions. Of particular interest are positive traits such as resilience and wisdom, which appear to have particular relevance in understanding the counterintuitive relationship between successful aging, even in the presence of poor health status. In addition to characterizing various facets of successful aging, there has been a growing interest in investigating strategies to promote well-being, many of which are discussed here. The ongoing technological revolution has great promise for enabling older adults to age successfully and safely in their own homes and communities despite declines in physical ability.

Keywords

Resilience Healthy aging Wisdom Positive psychiatry Well-being