Successful Aging Discussion Questions

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Aging successfully is most commonly defined as the absence of disease or disability, high mental and physical function and actively engaged socially in later life (Novak, Northcott & Campbell, 2018). However, this definition can be restrictive as many older adults with decreased physical or mental function, chronic disability or illness will report successfully aging. What, then, is successful aging? Who defines it? In their article, Romo et al. (2013) highlight how successful aging defined by researchers can impact older adults themselves, practitioners or others in their understanding of aging, disability and expectations of what is possible. The article continues, observing how this can be problematic as limitations frequently accompany aging, which can negatively impact those who don’t meet the standard. Bowling and Dieppe (2005) in their review of successful aging theories, point out that there are few investigations into how older adults themselves define successful aging. The readings provide an overview of the leading successful aging frameworks and a discussion regarding the impact of the definitions on older adults.

After reading p. 124-125 of your textbook and the articles below, consider the following questions:

1. What are the limitations associated with the use of the concept of successful aging?

2. How does research into successful aging change our perceptions of aging well?


Bowling, A., & Dieppe, P. (2005). What is successful ageing and who should define it?. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 331(7531), 1548–1551. doi:10.1136/bmj.331.7531.1548

Novak, M., Northcott, H. C., & Campbell, L. (2016). Aging and Society: Canadian Perspectives (8th ed.). Toronto: Nelson.

Romo, R. D., Wallhagen, M. I., Yourman, L., Yeung, C. C., Eng, C., Micco, G., … Smith, A. K. (2013). Perceptions of successful aging among diverse elders with late-life disability. The Gerontologist, 53(6), 939–949. doi:10.1093/geront/gns160

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