European Journal of Ageing

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 295–310 | Cite as

Does active ageing contribute to life satisfaction for older people? Testing a new model of active ageing

  • Sara MarsillasEmail author
  • Liesbeth De Donder
  • Tinie Kardol
  • Sofie van Regenmortel
  • Sarah Dury
  • Dorien Brosens
  • An-Sofie Smetcoren
  • Teresa Braña
  • Jesús Varela
Original Investigation


Several debates have emerged across the literature about the conceptualisation of active ageing. The aim of this study is to develop a model of the construct that is focused on the individual, including different elements of people’s lives that have the potential to be modified by intervention programs. Moreover, the paper examines the contributions of active ageing to life satisfaction, as well as the possible predictive role of coping styles on active ageing. For this purpose, a representative sample of 404 Galician (Spain) community-dwelling older adults (aged ≥60 years) were interviewed using a structured survey. The results demonstrate that the proposed model composed of two broad categories is valid. The model comprises status variables (related to physical, psychological, and social health) as well as different types of activities, called processual variables. This model is tested using partial least squares (PLS) regression. The findings show that active ageing is a fourth-order, formative construct. In addition, PLS analyses indicate that active ageing has a moderate and positive path on life satisfaction and that coping styles may predict active ageing. The discussion highlights the potential of active ageing as a relevant concept for people’s lives, drawing out policy implications and suggestions for further research.


Active ageing Satisfaction with life Coping Status variables Processual variables 



Sara Marsillas received a fellowship from the Fundación Barrié (Spain). We would like to thank this organisation for its support.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Even though Sara Marsillas has received a fellowship from the Fundación Barrié (Spain), the authors declare no competing interests that have influenced the submitted work. The funders have provided financial support but have had no role in data collection, analysis, interpretation of data, or in authoring the manuscript. To this extent, the authors are independent from the funders.


  1. Avramov D, Maskova M (2003) Active ageing in Europe. Population studies, 41, Council of Europe Publishing, OttawaGoogle Scholar
  2. Bass S, Caro F, Chen YP (1993) Achieving a productive aging society. Auburn House, West-portGoogle Scholar
  3. Bellón JA, Delgado A, Luna J et al (1996a) Validez y fiabilidad del cuestionario de apoyo social funcional Duke-UNC-11 [Validity and reliability of the Duke-UNC-11 functional social support questionnaire]. Aten Primaria 18:153–163Google Scholar
  4. Bellón JA, Delgado A, Luna J et al (1996b) Validez y fiabilidad del cuestionario de función familiar Apgar-familiar [Validity and reliability of the Apgar-family questionnaire on family function]. Aten Primaria 18:289–295Google Scholar
  5. Berg AI (2008) Life satisfaction in late life: markers and predictors of level and change among 80 + year olds. University of Gothenburg, GothenburgGoogle Scholar
  6. Blanco M (2010) Predictores psicosociales del envejecimiento activo: evidencias en una muestra de personas adultas mayores [Psychosocial predictors of active aging: evidence in a sample of older adults]. Anales en Gerontología 6:11–29Google Scholar
  7. Borg C, Hallberg IR, Blomqvist K (2006) Life satisfaction among older people (65+) with reduced self-care capacity: the relationship to social, health and financial aspects. J Clin Nurs 15:607–618. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2006.01375.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Boudiny K (2013) ‘Active ageing’: from empty rhetoric to effective policy tool. Ageing Soc 33:1077–1098. doi: 10.1017/So144686X1200030X CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Boudiny K, Mortelmans D (2011) A critical perspective: towards a broader understanding of “active ageing”. E J Appl Psychol 7:8–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bowling A (2005) Ageing well: quality of life in old age. Open University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  11. Bowling A (2008) Enhancing later life: how older people perceive active ageing? Aging Ment Health 12:293–301. doi: 10.1080/13607860802120979 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Caprara M, Molina MA, Schettini R et al (2013) Active aging promotion: results from the vital aging program. Curr Gerontol Geriatr Res 2013:817813. doi: 10.1155/2013/817813 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Clarke A, Warren L (2007) Hopes, fears and expectations about the future: what do older people’s stories tell us about active ageing? Ageing Soc 27:465–488. doi: 10.1017/S0144686X06005824 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Colcombe S, Kramer AF (2003) Fitness effects on the cognitive function of older adults: a meta-analytic study. Psychol Sci 14:125–130. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.t01-1-01430 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Davey JA (2002) Active ageing and education in mid and later life. Ageing Soc 22(1):95–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Diener ED, Emmons RA, Larsen RJ et al (1985) The satisfaction with life scale. J Pers Assess 19(1):71–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dury S, De Donder L, De Witte N et al (2015) Is volunteering in later life impeded or stimulated by other activities? Res Aging 38:51–75. doi: 10.1177/0164027515574777 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. European Commission (1999) New paradigms in ageing societies. European Commission. Accessed 9 Nov 2015
  19. European Commission (2008) The use of ICT to support innovation and lifelong learning for all—a report on progress. Accessed 9 Nov 2015
  20. Fernández-Ballesteros R et al (2006) Estudio longitudinal sobre envejecimiento activo (ELEA) [Longitudinal Study on Active Aging]. Madrid.
  21. Fernández-Ballesteros R (2008) Active aging. The contribution of psychology. Hogrefe & Huber, GottingenGoogle Scholar
  22. Fernández-Ballesteros R (2011) Positive ageing: objective, subjective and combined outcomes. E J Appl Psychol 7(1):22–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fernández-Mayoralas G, Rojo-Pérez F, Martínez-Martín P et al (2015) Active ageing and quality of life: factors associated with participation in leisure activities among institutionalized older adults, with and without dementia. Aging Ment Health 19:1031–1041. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2014.996734 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ferring D, Filipp S-H (2000) Coping as a ‘‘reality construction’’: on the role of attentive, comparative, and interpretative processes in coping with cancer. In: Harvey J, Miller E (eds) Loss and trauma. General and close relationship perspectives. Brunner/Mazel, Philadelphia, pp 146–165Google Scholar
  25. Ferring FD, Balducci C, Burholt V et al (2004) Life satisfaction of older people in six European countries: findings from the European study on adult well-being. Eur J Ageing 1:15–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Foster L, Walker A (2013) Gender and active ageing in Europe. Eur J Ageing 10:3–10. doi: 10.1007/s10433-013-0261-0 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Foster L, Walker A (2015) Active and successful aging: a European policy perspective. Gerontologist 5:83–90. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnu028 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gjevjon ER, Øderud T, Wensaas GH et al (2014) Toward a typology of technology users: how older people experience technology’s potential for active aging. Stud Health Technol Inform 201:25–31. doi: 10.3233/978-1-61499-415-2-25 Google Scholar
  29. Godoy-Izquierdo D, Martínez A, Godoy JF (2008) La «Escala de Balance Afectivo». Propiedades psicométricas de un instrumento para la medida del afecto positivo y negativo en población española [The «Affect Balance Scale». Its psychometric properties as a tool for measuring positive and negative affect in the spanish population]. Clínica y Salud 19:157–189Google Scholar
  30. Good GA, La Grow SJ, Alpass FM (2011) A study of older adults: observation of ranges of life satisfaction and functioning. NZ J Psychol 40:96–103Google Scholar
  31. Hasmanová J (2011) Leisure in old age: disciplinary practices surrounding the discourse of active ageing. Int J Ageing Later Life 6:5–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Havighurst RJ (1961) Successful aging. Gerontologist 1:8–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lawton MP, Brody EM (1969) Assessment of older people: self-maintaining and instrumental activities of daily living. Gerontologist 9:179–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Litwin H, Shiovitz-Ezra S (2006) The association between activity and wellbeing in later life: what really matters? Ageing Soc 26:225–242. doi: 10.1017/S0144686X05004538 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lobo A, Saz P, Marcos G et al (1999) Revalidación y normalización del Mini-Examen Cognoscitivo (primera versión en castellano del Mini-Mental Status Examination) en la población general geriátrica [Re-validation of the Mini-Examen Cognoscitivo (first Spanish version of the Mini-Mental Status Examination) and population-based norms in the elderly community]. Med Clin 112:767–774Google Scholar
  36. Lowry PB, Gaskin J (2014) Partial least squares (PLS) structural equation modeling (SEM) for building and testing behavioral causal theory: when to choose it and how to use it. IEEE Trans Prof Commun 57:123–146. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2014.2312452 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mahoney F, Barthel D (1965) Functional evaluation: the Barthel index. Md State Med J 14:56–61Google Scholar
  38. Marsillas S (2016) Development and validation of an active ageing personal index, adapted to the Galician context. University of Santiago de Compostela, Santiago de CompostelaGoogle Scholar
  39. Morrow-Howell N (2000) Productive engagement of older adults: Effects on well-being. Center for Social Development, St. LouisGoogle Scholar
  40. Neugarten BL, Havighurst RJ, Tobin SS (1961) The measurement of life satisfaction. J Gerontol 16:134–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Ouwehand C, de Ridder DT, Bensing JM (2007) A review of successful aging models: proposing proactive coping as an important additional strategy. Clin Psychol Rev 27(8):873–884CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Oxley H (2009) Policies for healthy ageing: an overview. organisation for economic co-operation and development (OECD) health working papers no. 42. OECD Publishing, ParisGoogle Scholar
  43. Paúl C, Ribeiro O, Teixeira L (2012) Active ageing: an empirical approach to the WHO model. Curr Gerontol Geriatr Res 382972:1–10. doi: 10.1155/2012/382972 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Peel N, Bartlett H, McClure R (2004) Healthy ageing: how is it defined and measured? Australas J Ageing 23:115–119. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-6612.2004.00035.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Perales J, Martin S, Ayuso-Mateos SL et al (2014) Factors associated with active aging in Finland, Poland, and Spain. Int Psychogeriatr 26:1363–1375. doi: 10.1017/S1041610214000520 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Phillipson C, Ogg J (2010) Active ageing and universities: engaging older learners. Universities UK, LondonGoogle Scholar
  47. Rowe JW, Kahn RL (1987) Human aging: usual and successful. Science 237:143–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rowe JW, Kahn RL (1997) Successful aging. Gerontologist 37:433–440. doi: 10.1093/geront/37.4.433 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Scarmeas N, Zarahn E, Andreson KE et al (2003) Association of life activities with cerebral blow in Alzheimer disease. Arch Neurol 60:359–365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Schulz R, Heckhausen J (1996) A life-span model of successful aging. Am Psychol 51:702–714CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Silverstein M, Parker MG (2002) Leisure activities and quality of life among the oldest old in Sweden. Res Aging 24:528–547. doi: 10.1177/0164027502245003 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Small GW, Moody TD, Siddarth P (2009) Your brain on Google: patterns of cerebral activation during internet searching. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry 17:116–126. doi: 10.1097/JGP.0b013e3181953a02 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Stenner P, McFarquhar T, Bowling A (2011) Older people and “active ageing”: subjective aspects of ageing actively. J Health Psychol 16:467–477. doi: 10.1177/1359105310384298 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Tam M (2011) Active ageing, active learning: policy and provision in Hong Kong. Stud Contin Educ 33:289–299. doi: 10.1080/0158037X.2010.515573 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Tareque MI, Hoque N, Islam TM et al (2013) Relationships between the active aging index and disability-free life expectancy: a case study in the Rajshahi district of Bangladesh. Can J Aging 32:417–432. doi: 10.1017/S0714980813000494 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. van Beuningen J (2012) The satisfaction with life scale examining construct validity. Accessed 2 Jan 2017
  57. Vargas-Manzanares SP, Herrera-Olaya GP, Rodríguez-García L et al (2010) Confiabilidad del cuestionario brief COPE Inventory en versión en español para evaluar estrategias de afrontamiento en pacientes con cáncer de seno [Reliability of the Questionnaire Brief COPE Inventory in Spanish Version for Assessing Coping Strategies in Patients with Breast Cancer]. Investigación en Enfermería: Imagen y Desarrollo, 12:7–24.
  58. Vázquez C, Duque A, Hervás G (2013) Satisfaction with life scale in a representative sample of Spanish adults: validation and normative data. Span J Psychol 16(e82):1–15. doi: 10.1017/sjp.2013.82 Google Scholar
  59. Vitaliano PP, Russo J, Young HM et al (1991) The screen for caregiver burden. Gerontologist 31:76–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Walker A (2002) A strategy for active ageing. Int Soc Secur Rev 55:121–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. WHO (2002) Active aging. A policy framework. World Health Organization, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  62. Zaidi A, Gasior K, Hofmarcher MM et al (2013) Active ageing index 2012: concept, methodology and final results. Accessed 9 Nov 2015

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Area of Methodology of Behavioural Sciences, Faculty of PsychologyUniversity of Santiago de CompostelaSantiago de CompostelaSpain
  2. 2.Department of Educational SciencesVrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium

Personalised recommendations