Gerontologists have struggled to answer the question of ‘what does it mean to age well?’ To an extent, this question may never be resolved due to cultural differences in expectations, suggests Matt Manierre, a sociologist and assistant professor from Clarkson’s Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. Instead of pursuing a universal definition of successful aging, he suggests that we should instead try to establish models that are empirically validated and consistently applied.
To this end, Manierre sought to validate a 5-point scale that measured successful aging as a combination of a person’s physical, mental, and social health in a study just published by The Gerontologist. Using data spanning 1986 to 2010, Manierre tested if people with high scores in 1986 reported fewer hospitalizations, higher life satisfaction, and lower risk of depressive episodes as far as 8 years in the future. He also tested if high successful aging scores were linked to lower risk of mortality 24 years in the future.
He found that the measure of successful aging that was tested appears to have substantial predictive value since high scorers in 1986 were less likely to have most negative outcomes down the road. This included hospitalization, acute illness, depressive episodes, limited mobility, and self-rated health, as well as subjective assessments reported by the interviewer. Low scorers were also much more likely to die than more successfully aged individuals, even after accounting for age differences.
He says,“This analysis provides compelling evidence that this particular model of successful aging is both empirically and practically useful. Future investigations will be able to reapply this measure to their own ends, with the end goal being better replicability and consistency of measures across studies.”