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Operational definitions of successful aging: a systematic review

  • Theodore D. Cosco (a1), A. Matthew Prina (a2), Jaime Perales (a3), Blossom C. M. Stephan (a4) and Carol Brayne (a1)...

Abstract

Background:

Half a century after the inception of the term “successful aging (SA),” a consensus definition has not emerged. The current study aims to provide a comprehensive snapshot of operational definitions of SA.

Methods:

A systematic review across MedLine, PsycInfo, CINAHL, EMBASE, and ISI Web of Knowledge of quantitative operational definitions of SA was conducted.

Results:

Of the 105 operational definitions, across 84 included studies using unique models, 92.4% (97) included physiological constructs (e.g. physical functioning), 49.5% (52) engagement constructs (e.g. involvement in voluntary work), 48.6% (51) well-being constructs (e.g. life satisfaction), 25.7% (27) personal resources (e.g. resilience), and 5.7% (6) extrinsic factors (e.g. finances). Thirty-four definitions consisted of a single construct, 28 of two constructs, 27 of three constructs, 13 of four constructs, and two of five constructs. The operational definitions utilized in the included studies identify between <1% and >90% of study participants as successfully aging.

Conclusions:

The heterogeneity of these results strongly suggests the multidimensionality of SA and the difficulty in categorizing usual versus successful aging. Although the majority of operationalizations reveal a biomedical focus, studies increasingly use psychosocial and lay components. Lack of consistency in the definition of SA is a fundamental weakness of SA research.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: Theodore D Cosco, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge, Forvie Site, Robinson Way, Cambridge, CB2 0SR, UK. Phone: 07414983921. Email: tdc33@cam.ac.uk.

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Keywords

Operational definitions of successful aging: a systematic review

  • Theodore D. Cosco (a1), A. Matthew Prina (a2), Jaime Perales (a3), Blossom C. M. Stephan (a4) and Carol Brayne (a1)...

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