Successful aging- as defined by authors John Rowe and Robert Kahn (1998), successful aging has three important components which includes good physical health, retention of cognitive abilities, continuing engagement in social activities and an individual’s subjective sense of life satisfaction. Successful aging demands for proper diet, an active lifestyle, mental stimulation and flexibility, positive coping skills, social relationships and absence of diseases through which many abilities can be maintained and may even improve as one gets older.
The first aspect of successful aging according to Rowe and Kahn is good physical health. Being active is especially significant to successful aging as older adults. For example, research has shown that age-related decline in cognitive functioning across the adult life span can be slowed down through physical exercise and lifestyle interventions (Kramer & Erikson, 2007). According to Rowe and Kahn, the degree to which older adults maintain cognitive functioning is another crucial component of successful aging. The complexity of cognitive challenges older adults are willing to take influences one’s cognitive abilities. Psychologists suggest that self-stereotyping contributes to reluctance to from engaging in new challenges as older adults may believe that they can’t learn as efficiently as young people. However, neurologists suggest that such disengagement from learning may lead to cognitive decline. New learning helps to establish connections between the neurons that may protect the aging brain against deterioration. Thus, a willingness to learn new things, called cognitive adventurousness is a key component of successful aging. Social engagement and participation in productive activities is the third component important for successful aging. Social connectedness leads to successful aging because it provides opportunities for older adults to give support as well as receive it. Researchers studying Japanese elders found that majority confessed that helping others contributes to their own mental and personal sense of well being. Among elder adults with disabilities, frequency of contact with loved ones was associated with reduced feeling of loneliness (Liu & Richardson, 2012).
Volunteerism or performing unpaid work for altruistic reasons has been linked with successful aging. For instance, a California study involving nearly 2000 older adults found that morality rates were 60% lower among volunteers than non volunteers. (Oman, Thoresen & McMahon, 1999). Apart from contributing to the social network, engagement in creative productivity may also help older adults in maintaining an optimistic outlook that further contributes to mental and physical well being. For instance, a research was conducted on 36 artists who were 60 years or above age. In the study, they were asked to explain how their artistic productivity has contributed to successful aging. According to them, producing art gave them a purpose in life, opportunities to interact with like-minded individuals and a sense of competence (Fisher & Specht , 1999).
Life satisfaction or a sense of personal well being is another crucial component of successful aging. An individual’s perception of his situation is critical to life satisfaction. Perceived adequacy of social support and self-ratings of health are important predictors of life satisfaction. Perceived control over the environment contributes to successful aging.
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