Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 261–278 | Cite as

A New Multidimensional Model of Successful Aging: Perceptions of Japanese American Older Adults

Original Article


This study examined the concept of successful aging using an ethnographic grounded-theory approach. Seventy-seven Japanese American older adults participated in focus groups. Participants perceived successful aging as optimal functioning in the following areas: Physical health, psychological health, cognitive functioning, socialization, spirituality, and financial security. The content of each dimension represents both culture-specific and culturally-universal elements. This new multidimensional model of successful aging was compared to Rowe and Kahn’s (The Gerontologist 37:433–440, 1997) and Phelan et al.’s frameworks (Journal of the American Geriatric Society 52:211–216, 2004) of successful aging. The model of successful aging generated from this study appears to be more comprehensive than existing models and incorporates sociocultural experiences.


Japanese Americans Older adults Successful aging Focus groups Qualitative method Grounded theory 


  1. Administration on Aging (2004). A Profile of Older Americans: 2003. Retrieved October 15, 2005 from
  2. Albert, M. S., Jones, K., Savage, C. R., Berkman, L., Seeman, T., Blazer, D., et al. (1995). Predictors of cognitive changes in older persons: the MacArthur Successful Aging Studies. Psychology and Aging, 10, 578–589.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Atchley, R. C. (1972). The social forces in later life. Belmont: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  4. Berkman, L. F., Seeman, T. E., Albert, M., Blazer, D., Kahn, R., Mohs, R., et al. (1993). High, usual and impaired functioning in community-dwelling older men and women: findings from the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Successful Aging. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 46, 1129–1140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bussing, A., Ostermann, T., & Matthiessen, P. F. (2005). Role of religion and spirituality in medical patients: confirmatory results with the SpREUK questionnaire. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, 3:53. Retrieved October 15, 2005, from
  6. Butler, R. N. (2009). Combating ageism. International Psychogeriatrics, 21, 211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cohen, S., Gottlieb, B. H., & Underwood, L. G. (2001). Social relationships and health: challenges for measurement and intervention. Advances in Mind-Body Medicine, 17, 129–141.Google Scholar
  8. Collings, P. (2001). “If you got everything, it’s good enough”: perspectives on successful aging in a Canadian Inuit community. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology, 16, 127–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cumming, E., & Henry, W. E. (1961). Growing old. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  10. Curb, J. D., Reed, D. M., Miller, F. D., & Yano, K. (1990). Health status and life style in elderly Japanese men with a long life expectancy. Journal of Gerontology, 45, S206–211.Google Scholar
  11. Fugita, S. S., & Fernandez, M. (2004). Altered lives, enduring community: Japanese Americans remembering their World War II incarceration. Seattle: University of Washington Press.Google Scholar
  12. Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  13. Havighurst, R. J. (1961). Successful aging. The Gerontologist, 1, 8–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Havighurst, R. J. (1963). Successful aging. In R. Williams, C. Tibbits, & W. Donahue (Eds.), Process of aging (Vol. 1, pp. 299–320). New York: Atherton.Google Scholar
  15. Helgeson, V. S. (2003). Social support and quality of life. Quality of Life Research, 12, 25–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Holstein, M. B., & Minkler, M. (2003). Self, society, and the “New Gerontology. The Gerontologist, 43, 787–796.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Homma-True, R. (1997). Japanese American families. In E. Lee (Ed.), Working with Asian Americans: A guide for clinicians (pp. 114–124). New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  18. Hooyman, N. R., & Kiyak, H. A. (2002). Social Gerontology: A multidisciplinary perspectives (6th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  19. Iwamasa, G. Y., & Sorocco, K. H. (2002). Aging and Asian Americans: Developing culturally appropriate research methodology. In G. C. Nagayama Hall & S. Okazaki (Eds.), Asian American psychology: The science of lives in context (pp. 105–130). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Iwamasa, G. Y., & Sorocco, K. H. (2007). The psychology of Asian American older adults. In F. Leong, A. G. Inman, A. Ebreo, L. Yang, L. M. Kinoshita, & M. Fu (Eds.), Handbook of Asian American psychology (2nd ed., pp. 213–226). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  21. Leong, F. T. L., & Chou, E. L. (1988). Developing brief versions of the Suinn-Lew Asian Self-Identity Acculturation (SL-ASIA) Scale for counseling research. Asian and Pacific Islander Journal of Health, 6, American 13–24.Google Scholar
  22. Markus, H. R., & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the self: implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological Review, 98, 224–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. McCormick, W. C., Obata, C. Y., Uomoto, J., Young, H., Graves, A. B., Kukull, W., et al. (2002). Similarities and differences in attitudes toward long-term care between Japanese American and Caucasian Americans. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 50, 1149–1155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Morgan, D. L., & Krueger, R. A. (1993). When to use focus groups and why. In D. L. Morgan (Ed.), Successful focus groups: Advancing the state of the art (pp. 3–19). Newbury Park: Sage.Google Scholar
  25. Myers, J. E. (2007). Combating ageism: Advocacy for older persons. In C. Lee (Ed.), Counseling for social justice (2nd ed., pp. 51–74). Alexandria: American Counseling Association.Google Scholar
  26. Nagalingam, J. (2007). Understanding successful aging: a study of older Indian adults in Singapore. Care Management Journals, 8, 18–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Nagata, D. K. (1991). Transgenerational impact of the Japanese-American internment: Clinical issues in working with children of former internees. Psychotherapy, 28, 121–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Nagata, D. K., & Takeshita, Y. J. (2002). Psychological reactions to redress: diversity among Japanese Americans interned during World War II. Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology, 8, 41–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. National Pacific/Asian Resource Center on Aging. (1989). Focus groups implementation guidelines. Seattle: Author.Google Scholar
  30. National Wellness Institute (2009). Six dimensional model of wellness. Retrieved March 3, 2010 from
  31. Nelson, T. D. (2002). Ageism: Stereotyping and prejudice against older persons. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  32. Neugarten, B., Havighurst, R. J., & Tobin, S. S. (1968). Personality and patterns of aging. In B. L. Neugarten (Ed.), Middle age and aging (pp. 1761–172). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  33. Nyunt, M. S., Fones, C., Niti, M., & Ng, T. P. (2009). Criterion-based validity and reliability of the Geriatric Depression Screening Scale (GDS-15) in a large validation sample of community-living Asian older adults. Aging & Mental Health, 13, 376–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pargament, K. I. (1999). The psychology of religion and spirituality? Yes and no. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 9, 3–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Phelan, E. A., Anderson, L. A., LaCroix, A. Z., & Larson, E. B. (2004). Older adults’ views of “successful aging”: how do they compare with researcher’s Definitions? Journal of the American Geriatric Society, 52, 211–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Reichstadt, J., Depp, C. A., Palinkas, L. A., Folsom, D. P., & Jeste, D. V. (2007). Building blocks of successful aging: a focus group study of older adults’ perceived contributors to successful aging. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 15, 194–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Rowe, J. W., & Kahn, R. L. (1997). Successful aging. The Gerontologist, 37, 433–440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Seeman, T. E., Charpentier, P. A., Berkman, L. F., Tinetti, M. E., Guralnik, J. M., & Albert, M. (1994). Predicting changes in physical performance in a high-functioning elderly cohort: MacArthur Studies of Successful Aging. Journal of Gerontology, 49, M97–M108.Google Scholar
  39. Sheik, J. J., & Yesavage, J. A. (1986). Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS): recent evidence and development of a shorter version. Clinical Gerontologist, 5, 165–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: grounded theory procedures and techniques. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  41. Suinn, R. M. (1998). Measurement of acculturation in Asian Americans. Asian American and Pacific Islander Journal of Health, 6, 7–12.Google Scholar
  42. Thomas, L. E., & Chambers, K. O. (1989). ‘Successful aging’ among elderly men in England and India: A phenomenological comparison. In T. L. Eugene (Ed.), Research on adulthood and aging: The human science approach (pp. 183–203). Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  43. Tomine, S. I. (1991). Counseling Japanese Americans: From internment to preparation. In C. C. Lee & B. L. Richardson (Eds.), Multicultural issues in counseling: New approaches to diversity (pp. 91–105). Alexandria: American Association for Counseling and Development.Google Scholar
  44. Unger, J. B., McAvay, G., Bruce, M. L., Berkman, L., & Seeman, T. (1999). Variation in the impact of social network characteristics on physical functioning in the elderly persons: Macarthur Studies of Successful Aging. Journal of Gerontology, 54, S245–S251.Google Scholar
  45. Von Faber, M., Bootsma-van der Wiel, A., van Exel, E., Gussekloo, J., Laggay, A. M., van Dongen, E., et al. (2001). Successful aging in the oldest old: who can be characterized as successfully aged? Archival of Internal Medicine, 161, 2964–2700.Google Scholar
  46. Yesavage, J. A., Brink, T. L., Rose, T. L., Lum, O., Huang, V., Adey, M., et al. (1983). Development and validation of geriatric depression screening scale: A preliminary report. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 17, 37–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Young, H. M., McCormick, W. C., & Vitaliano, P. (2002). Evolving values in community-based long-term care services for Japanese Americans. Advances in Nursing Sciences, 25, 40–56.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC (outside the USA)  2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health AdministrationOffice of Mental Health OperationsIndianapolisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Counseling, Rehabilitation Counseling & Counseling PsychologyWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyDePaul UniversityChicagoUSA
  4. 4.Department of Counseling & Guidance ServicesBall State UniversityMuncieUSA

Personalised recommendations