Successful Aging among Older Americans: Prevalence, Trends, and Disparities

TitleSuccessful Aging among Older Americans: Prevalence, Trends, and Disparities
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsMcLaughlin, SJ
Date Published2009
UniversityUniversity of Michigan
CityAnn Arbor, MI
KeywordsHealth Conditions and Status

At the beginning of the last century, 1 in 25 Americans was age 65 or over. By 2050, however, 1 in 5 will be an older adult. Because older adults shoulder a disproportionate share of health problems, concerns have been raised about the impact that an expanding older population will have on American society. Research suggests, though, that good health in the later years is possible and that health promotion efforts may help avert some of the "costs" of a growing older population. Currently, little is known about the prevalence of healthy aging in the US. To help fill this void, Rowe and Kahn's notion of healthy aging, referred to as "successful aging," was examined. Using 1998, 2000, 2002, and 2004 data from a nationally representative study of older adults, the prevalence of successful aging was estimated for the older population as a whole and major subgroups of older adults. Additionally, trends over time in the prevalence of the phenomenon were examined to determine if the percentage of older adults aging "successfully" has changed in recent years. Guided by Rowe and Kahn's framework, successful aging was operationalized as having no difficulty with six activities of daily living, none of five chronic diseases, no more than one difficulty with seven measures of physical functioning, a median or higher score on tests of cognitive functioning, and being actively engaged. Analyses were restricted to the roughly 10,000 adults at each wave who were ages 65 and over. Results indicate that fewer than 10% of older adults were aging "successfully" in any wave. In adjusted analyses, those of lower SES, advanced age, and male gender were consistently found to have lower odds of aging "successfully" than their respective counterparts. In addition, for the most recent wave of data collection, those of non-White race/ethnicity had just half the odds of aging successfully as older White adults. Over the six-year period, the prevalence of successful aging declined by 19%, with differential trends by SES evident in 2004. The implications of these findings for the continued study and development of the concept of "successful aging" are discussed.

Endnote Keywords

Chronic Disease

Endnote ID


Short TitleSuccessful Aging among Older Americans: Prevalence, Trends, and Disparities
Citation Key5998