Healthy Ageing: What Is It and How to Describe It?

  • Ritu SadanaEmail author
  • Jean-Pierre Michel
Part of the Practical Issues in Geriatrics book series (PIG)


In 2016, WHO Member States adopted “Healthy Ageing” as a concept and goal to advance the health of older adults, defined as “the process of developing and maintaining functional ability that enables well-being in older age.” This chapter draws on citation patterns to consider its intellectual origins—in particular the distinction from “Successful Ageing”—and its evolution over time, including whose perspectives are privileged, that is, older adults or clinicians-researchers. It also highlights the proliferation of instruments and diverse ways to describe and measure ageing, often presented as multi-domain profiles whether applied to a population, specific diseases or condition, or specifically to older adults. An overview of ten recent approaches to assess older adults’ health, illustrates each uses different domains, with different elements and measurement approaches listed within each domain. Moreover, different instruments claim to assess different aspects of health or even well-being: functional status, health status, well-being, quality of life, or health-related quality of life. Most combine information on biomarkers, measured tests, capacity to perform tasks, and subjective evaluation. Yet operational differences among these measures appear arbitrary and do not reflect a clear conceptual basis. For a standardized approach to measure Healthy Ageing, agreement on a standardized set of domains would be a major step forward towards comparable data within and across countries, necessary to advance global monitoring and research.


Metrics Healthy ageing Successful ageing Intrinsic capacity Disability Functional ability Health status measurement 



RS is a staff member of the World Health Organization and along with JPM is alone responsible for the views expressed in this publication; these do not necessarily represent the decisions, policy, or views of the World Health Organization. This chapter is based on an article published in JAMDA 2017; 18: 460–4.

Declaration of Interest: JPM and RS are co-authors, with others, of the WHO Report on Ageing and Health 2015.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ageing and Life CourseWorld Health OrganizationGenevaSwitzerland
  2. 2.University of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland
  3. 3.French Academy of MedicineParisFrance

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