This study illuminates the concept of "aging in place" in terms of functional, symbolic, and emotional attachments and meanings of homes, neighbourhoods, and communities. It investigates how older people understand the meaning of "aging in place," a term widely used in aging policy and research but underexplored with older people themselves. Older people (n = 121), ranging in age from 56 to 92 years, participated in focus groups and interviews in 2 case study communities of similar size in Aotearoa New Zealand, both with high ratings on deprivation indices. The question, "What is the ideal place to grow older?" was explored, including reflections on aging in place. Thematic and narrative analyses on the meaning of aging in place are presented in this paper. Older people want choices about where and how they age in place. "Aging in place" was seen as an advantage in terms of a sense of attachment or connection and feelings of security and familiarity in relation to both homes and communities. Aging in place related to a sense of identity both through independence and autonomy and through caring relationships and roles in the places people live. Aging in place operates in multiple interacting ways, which need to be taken into account in both policy and research. The meanings of aging in place for older people have pragmatic implications beyond internal "feel good" aspects and operate interactively far beyond the "home" or housing.
Purpose of the Study: There is a global imperative to increase awareness of the emerging evidence on physical activity (PA) among older adults. "Healthy aging" has traditionally focused on preventing chronic disease, but greater efforts are required to reduce frailty and dependency and to maintain independent physical and cognitive function and mental health and well-being. Design and Methods: This integrated review updates the epidemiological data on PA, summarizes the existing evidence-based PA guidelines, describes the global magnitude of inactivity, and finally describes the rationale for action. The first section updates the epidemiological evidence for reduced cardiometabolic risk, reduced risks of falls, the burgeoning new evidence on improved cognitive function and functional capacity, and reduced risk of depression, anxiety, and dementia. This is followed by a summary of population prevalence studies among older adults. Finally, we present a "review of reviews" of PA interventions delivered from community or population settings, followed by a consideration of interventions among the "oldest-old," where efforts are needed to increase resistance (strength) training and balance. Results: This review identifies the global importance of considering " active aging" beyond the established benefits attributed to noncommunicable disease prevention alone. Implications: Innovative population-level efforts are required to address physical inactivity, prevent loss of muscle strength, and maintain balance in older adults. Specific investment in healthy aging requires global policy support from the World Health Organization and is implemented at the national and regional levels, in order to reduce the burden of disease and disability among older adults.
Purpose: To develop and validate criterion-referenced fitness standards for older adults that predict the level of capacity needed for maintaining physical independence into later life. The proposed standards were developed for use with a previously validated test battery for older adults-the Senior Fitness Test (Rikli, R. E., & Jones, C. J. (2001). Development and validation of a functional fitness test for community-residing older adults. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 6, 127-159; Rikli, R. E., & Jones, C. J. (1999a). Senior fitness test manual. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.). Methods: A criterion measure to assess physical independence was identified. Next, scores from a subset of 2,140 "moderate-functioning" older adults from a larger cross-sectional database, together with findings from longitudinal research on physical capacity and aging, were used as the basis for proposing fitness standards (performance cut points) associated with having the ability to function independently. Validity and reliability analyses were conducted to test the standards for their accuracy and consistency as predictors of physical independence. Results: Performance standards are presented for men and women ages 60-94 indicating the level of fitness associated with remaining physically independent until late in life. Reliability and validity indicators for the standards ranged between .79 and .97. Implications: The proposed standards provide easy-to-use, previously unavailable methods for evaluating physical capacity in older adults relative to that associated with physical independence. Most importantly, the standards can be used in planning interventions that target specific areas of weakness, thus reducing risk for premature loss of mobility and independence.
Considerable research and public discourse on family caregiving portrays it as a stressful and burdensome experience with serious negative health consequences. A landmark study by Schulz and Beach that reported higher mortality rates for strained spouse caregivers has been widely cited as evidence for the physical health risks of caregiving and is often a centerpiece of advocacy for improved caregiver services. However, 5 subsequent population-based studies have found reduced mortality and extended longevity for caregivers as a whole compared with noncaregiving controls. Most caregivers also report benefits from caregiving, and many report little or no caregiving-related strain. Policy reports, media portrayals, and many research reports commonly present an overly dire picture of the health risks associated with caregiving and largely ignore alternative positive findings. As the pool of traditional family caregivers declines in the coming years, a more balanced and updated portrayal of the health effects of caregiving is needed to encourage more persons to take on caregiving roles, and to better target evidence-based services to the subgroup of caregivers who are highly strained or otherwise at risk. Recommendations are discussed for research that will better integrate and clarify both the negative and potential positive health effects of informal caregiving.
Purpose: This study is one of the first to examine the physical and mental health of transgender older adults and to identify modifiable factors that account for health risks in this underserved population. Design and Methods: Utilizing data from a cross-sectional survey of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender older adults aged 50 and older (N = 2,560), we assessed direct and indirect effects of gender identity on 4 health outcomes (physical health, disability, depressive symptomatology, and perceived stress) based on a resilience conceptual framework. Results: Transgender older adults were at significantly higher risk of poor physical health, disability, depressive symptomatology, and perceived stress compared with nontransgender participants. We found significant indirect effects of gender identity on the health outcomes via fear of accessing health services, lack of physical activity, internalized stigma, victimization, and lack of social support; other mediators included obesity for physical health and disability, identity concealment for perceived stress, and community belonging for depressive symptomatology and perceived stress. Further analyses revealed that risk factors (victimization and stigma) explained the highest proportion of the total effect of gender identity on health outcomes. Implications: The study identifies important modifiable factors (stigma, victimization, health-related behaviors, and social support) associated with health among transgender older adults. Reducing stigma and victimization and including gender identity in nondiscrimination and hate crime statutes are important steps to reduce health risks. Attention to bolstering individual and community-level social support must be considered when developing tailored interventions to address transgender older adults’ distinct health and aging needs.
Persistent pain, impaired mobility and function, and reduced quality of life and mental well-being are the most common experiences associated with musculoskeletal conditions, of which there are more than 150 types. The prevalence and impact of musculoskeletal conditions increase with aging. A profound burden of musculoskeletal disease exists in developed and developing nations. Notably, this burden far exceeds service capacity. Population growth, aging, and sedentary lifestyles, particularly in developing countries, will create a crisis for population health that requires a multisystem response with musculoskeletal health services as a critical component. Globally, there is an emphasis on maintaining an active lifestyle to reduce the impacts of obesity, cardiovascular conditions, cancer, osteoporosis, and diabetes in older people. Painful musculoskeletal conditions, however, profoundly limit the ability of people to make these lifestyle changes. A strong relationship exists between painful musculoskeletal conditions and a reduced capacity to engage in physical activity resulting in functional decline, frailty, reduced well-being, and loss of independence. Multilevel strategies and approaches to care that adopt a whole person approach are needed to address the impact of impaired musculoskeletal health and its sequelae. Effective strategies are available to address the impact of musculoskeletal conditions; some are of low cost (e.g., primary care-based interventions) but others are expensive and, as such, are usually only feasible for developed nations. In developing nations, it is crucial that any reform or development initiatives, including research, must adhere to the principles of development effectiveness to avoid doing harm to the health systems in these settings.
Purpose: Elder mistreatment is now recognized internationally as a pervasive and growing problem, urgently requiring the attention of health care systems, social welfare agencies, policymakers, and the general public. In this article, we provide an overview of global issues in the field of elder abuse, with a focus on prevention. Design and Methods: This article provides a scoping review of key issues in the field from an international perspective. Results: By drawing primarily on population-based studies, this scoping review provided a more valid and reliable synthesis of current knowledge about prevalence and risk factors than has been available. Despite the lack of scientifically rigorous intervention research on elder abuse, the review also identified 5 promising strategies for prevention. Implications: The findings highlight a growing consensus across studies regarding the extent and causes of elder mistreatment, as well as the urgent need for efforts to make elder mistreatment prevention programs more effective and evidence based.
Purpose: Based on resilience theory, this paper investigates the influence of key health indicators and risk and protective factors on health outcomes (including general health, disability, and depression) among lesbian, gay male, and bisexual (LGB) older adults. Design and Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted with LGB older adults, aged 50 and older (N = 2,439). Logistic regressions were conducted to examine the contributions of key health indicators (access to health care and health behaviors), risk factors (lifetime victimization, internalized stigma, and sexual identity concealment), and protective factors (social support and social network size) to health outcomes, when controlling for background characteristics. Results: The findings revealed that lifetime victimization, financial barriers to health care, obesity, and limited physical activity independently and significantly accounted for poor general health, disability, and depression among LGB older adults. Internalized stigma was also a significant predictor of disability and depression. Social support and social network size served as protective factors, decreasing the odds of poor general health, disability, and depression. Some distinct differences by gender and sexual orientation were also observed. Implications: High levels of poor general health, disability, and depression among LGB older adults are of major concern. These findings highlight the important role of key risk and protective factors, which significantly influences health outcomes among LGB older adults. Tailored interventions must be developed to address the distinct health issues facing this historically disadvantaged population.
The purpose of this study was to analyze the range of critiques of successful aging models and the suggestions for improvement as expressed in the social gerontology literature. We conducted a systematic literature review using the following criteria: journal articles retrieved in the Abstracts in Social Gerontology, published 1987-2013, successful aging/ageing in the title or text (n = 453), a critique of successful aging models as a key component of the article. Sixty-seven articles met the criteria. Qualitative methods were used to identify key themes and inductively configure meanings across the range of critiques. The critiques and remedies fell into 4 categories. The Add and Stir group suggested a multidimensional expansion of successful aging criteria and offered an array of additions. The Missing Voices group advocated for adding older adults' subjective meanings of successful aging to established objective measures. The Hard Hitting Critiques group called for more just and inclusive frameworks that embrace diversity, avoid stigma and discrimination, and intervene at structural contexts of aging. The New Frames and Names group presented alternative ideal models often grounded in Eastern philosophies. The vast array of criteria that gerontologists collectively offered to expand Rowe and Kahn's original successful model is symptomatic of the problem that a normative model is by definition exclusionary. Greater reflexivity about gerontology's use of "successful aging" and other normative models is needed.
The effects of the physical-spatial-technical environment on aging well have been overlooked both conceptually and empirically. In the spirit of M. Powell Lawton's seminal work on aging and environment, this article attempts to rectify this situation by suggesting a new model of how older people interact with their environment. Goals of the paper include (a) integration of the essential elements of the ecology and aging literature, particularly in regard to Lawton's research, (b) development of connections between traditional theories of ecology of aging and life span developmental models of aging well, (c) acknowledgment of the pronounced historical and cohort-related changes affecting the interactions of older people with their environment, and (d) discussion of the implications of this analysis for concepts and theories of aging well. The model builds on a pair of concepts: environment as related to agency and belonging, founded in motivational psychology, and developmental science. After describing the model's key components, we discuss its heuristic potential in four propositions for future gerontological research and identify implications of the model for future empirical research.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people are a health disparate population as identified in Healthy People 2020. Yet, there has been limited attention to how LGBT older adults maintain successful aging despite the adversity they face. Utilizing a Resilience Framework, this study investigates the relationship between physical and mental health-related quality of life (QOL) and covariates by age group. A cross-sectional survey of LGBT adults aged 50 and older (N = 2,560) was conducted by Caring and Aging with Pride: The National Health, Aging, and Sexuality Study via collaborations with 11 sites across the U.S. Linear regression analyses tested specified relationships and moderating effects of age groups (aged 50-64; 65-79; 80 and older). Physical and mental health QOL were negatively associated with discrimination and chronic conditions and positively with social support, social network size, physical and leisure activities, substance nonuse, employment, income, and being male when controlling for age and other covariates. Mental health QOL was also positively associated with positive sense of sexual identity and negatively with sexual identity disclosure. Important differences by age group emerged and for the old-old age group the influence of discrimination was particularly salient. This is the first study to examine physical and mental health QOL, as an indicator of successful aging, among LGBT older adults. An understanding of the configuration of resources and risks by age group is important for the development of aging and health initiatives tailored for this growing population.
"Successful aging" is one of gerontology's most successful ideas. Applied as a model, a concept, an approach, an experience, and an outcome, it has inspired researchers to create affiliated terms such as "healthy," "positive," "active," "productive," and "effective" aging. Although embraced as an optimistic approach to measuring life satisfaction and as a challenge to ageist traditions based on decline, successful aging as defined by John Rowe and Robert Kahn has also invited considerable critical responses. This article takes a critical gerontological perspective to explore such responses to the Rowe-Kahn successful aging paradigm by summarizing its empirical and methodological limitations, theoretical assumptions around ideas of individual choice and lifestyle, and inattention to intersecting issues of social inequality, health disparities, and age relations. The latter point is elaborated with an examination of income, gender, racial, ethnic, and age differences in the United States. Conclusions raise questions of social exclusion and the future of successful aging research.
Purpose of the Study: The purpose of this study was to describe prevalence of technology use among adults ages 65 and older, particularly for those with disability and activity-limiting symptoms and impairments. Design and Methods: Data from the 2011 National Health and Aging Trends Study, a nationally representative sample of community-dwelling Medicare beneficiaries (N = 7,609), were analyzed. Analysis consisted of technology use (use of e-mail/text messages and the internet) by sociodemographic and health characteristics and prevalence ratios for technology usage by disability status. Results: Forty percent of older adults used e-mail or text messaging and 42.7% used the internet. Higher prevalence of technology use was associated with younger age, male sex, white race, higher education level, and being married (all p values <.001). After adjustment for sociodemographic and health characteristics, technology use decreased significantly with greater limitations in physical capacity and greater disability. Vision impairment and memory limitations were also associated with lower likelihood of technology use. Implications: Technology usage in U.S. older adults varied significantly by sociodemographic and health status. Prevalence of technology use differed by the type of disability and activity-limiting impairments. The internet, e-mail, and text messaging might be viable mediums for health promotion and communication, particularly for younger cohorts of older adults and those with certain types of impairment and less severe disability.
Over the past two decades, "active aging" has emerged in Europe as the foremost policy response to the challenges of population aging. This article examines the concept of active aging and how it differs from that of "successful aging." In particular, it shows how active aging presents a more holistic, life course-oriented approach than successful aging. We provide a critical perspective on active aging too by, first, tracing its emergence in Europe and then showing how, in practice, it has been dominated by a narrow economic or productivist perspective that prioritizes the extension of working life. It has also been gender blind. Nonetheless, it is argued that an active aging approach has the potential to enable countries to respond successfully to the challenges of population aging because of its comprehensive focus and emphasis on societal as well as individual responsibility. Finally, we set out the basic principles that need to be followed if the full potential of active aging is to be achieved.
Purpose of the Study: During aging, musical activities can help maintain physical and mental health and cognitive abilities, but their rehabilitative use has not been systematically explored in persons with dementia (PWDs). Our aim was to determine the efficacy of a novel music intervention based on coaching the caregivers of PWDs to use either singing or music listening regularly as a part of everyday care. Design and Methods: Eighty-nine PWD-caregiver dyads were randomized to a 10-week singing coaching group (n = 30), a 10-week music listening coaching group (n = 29), or a usual care control group (n = 30). The coaching sessions consisted primarily of singing/listening familiar songs coupled occasionally with vocal exercises and rhythmic movements (singing group) and reminiscence and discussions (music listening group). In addition, the intervention included regular musical exercises at home. All PWDs underwent an extensive neuropsychological assessment, which included cognitive tests, as well as mood and quality of life (QOL) scales, before and after the intervention period and 6 months later. In addition, the psychological well-being of family members was repeatedly assessed with questionnaires. Results: Compared with usual care, both singing and music listening improved mood, orientation, and remote episodic memory and to a lesser extent, also attention and executive function and general cognition. Singing also enhanced short-term and working memory and caregiver wellbeing, whereas music listening had a positive effect on QOL. Implications: Regular musical leisure activities can have long-term cognitive, emotional, and social benefits in mild/moderate dementia and could therefore be utilized in dementia care and rehabilitation.
Everyone wants to age successfully; however, the definition and criteria of successful aging remain vague for laypersons, researchers, and policymakers in spite of decades of research on the topic. This paper highlights work of scholars who made significant theoretical contributions to the topic. A thorough review and evaluation of the literature on successful aging was undertaken. Our review includes early gerontological definitions of successful aging and related concepts. Historical perspectives reach back to philosophical and religious texts, and more recent approaches have focused on both process- and outcome-oriented models of successful aging. We elaborate on Baltes and Baltes' theory of selective optimization with compensation [Baltes, P. B., & Baltes, M. M. (1990a). Psychological perspectives on successful aging: The model of selective optimization with compensation. In P. B. Baltes & M. M. Baltes (Eds.), Successful aging: Perspectives from the behavioral sciences (pp. 1-34). United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press], Kahana and Kahana's preventive and corrective proactivity model [Kahana, E., & Kahana, B. (1996). Conceptual and empirical advances in understanding aging well through proactive adaptation. In V. Bengtson (Ed.), Adulthood and aging: Research on continuities and discontinuities (pp. 18-40). New York: Springer], and Rowe and Kahn's model of successful aging [Rowe, J. W., & Kahn, R. L. (1998). Successful aging. New York: Pantheon Books], outlining their commonalities and differences. Additional views on successful aging emphasize subjective versus objective perceptions of successful aging and relate successful aging to studies on healthy and exceptional longevity. Additional theoretical work is needed to better understand successful aging, including the way it can encompass disability and death and dying. The extent of rapid social and technological change influencing views on successful aging also deserves more consideration.
Interest in technology for older adults is driven by multiple converging trends: the rapid pace of technological development; the unprecedented growth of the aging population in the United States and worldwide; the increase in the number and survival of persons with disability; the growing and unsustainable costs of caring for the elderly people; and the increasing interest on the part of business, industry, and government agencies in addressing health care needs with technology. These trends have contributed to the strong conviction that technology can play an important role in enhancing quality of life and independence of older individuals with high levels of efficiency, potentially reducing individual and societal costs of caring for the elderly people. The purpose of this "Forum" position article is to integrate what we know about older adults and technology systems in order to provide direction to this vital enterprise. We define what we mean by technology for an aging population, provide a brief history of its development, introduce a taxonomy for characterizing current technology applications to older adults, summarize research in this area, describe existing development and evaluation processes, identify factors important for the acceptance of technology among older individuals, and recommend future directions for research in this area.
Purpose of the Study: Social relations are a key aspect of aging and the life course. In this paper, we trace the scientific origins of the study of social relations, focusing in particular on research grounded in the convoy model. Design and Methods: We first briefly review and critique influential historical studies to illustrate how the scientific study of social relations developed. Next, we highlight early and current findings grounded in the convoy model that have provided key insights into theory, method, policy, and practice in the study of aging. Results: Early social relations research, while influential, lacked the combined approach of theoretical grounding and methodological rigor. Nevertheless, previous research findings, especially from anthropology, suggested the importance of social relations in the achievement of positive outcomes. Considering both life span and life course perspectives and grounded in a multidisciplinary perspective, the convoy model was developed to unify and consolidate scattered evidence while at the same time directing future empirical and applied research. Early findings are summarized, current evidence presented, and future directions projected. Implications: The convoy model has provided a useful framework in the study of aging, especially for understanding predictors and consequences of social relations across the life course.
Purpose: This article draws from cumulative disadvantage and life course theories to develop a new theory for the social scientific study of aging. Design and Methods: Five axioms of cumulative inequality (CI) theory are articulated to identify how life course trajectories are influenced by early and accumulated inequalities but can be modified by available resources, perceived trajectories, and human agency. Results: Although the concept of CI has attracted considerable attention among social scientists, it holds promise for integrating additional disciplinary approaches to the study of aging including, but not limited to, biology, epidemiology, and immunology. The applicability of CI theory to gerontology is illustrated in research on the early origins of adult health. Implications: Primary contributions of the theory to gerontology include greater attention to family lineage as a source of inequality; genes, gestation, and childhood as critical to early and enduring inequalities; the onset, duration, and magnitude of exposures to risk and opportunity; and constraints on generalizations arising from cohort-centric studies.
Purpose: To assess the predictive validity of frailty and its domains (physical, psychological, and social), as measured by the Tilburg Frailty Indicator (TFI), for the adverse outcomes disability, health care utilization, and quality of life. Design and Methods: The predictive validity of the TFI was tested in a representative sample of 484 community-dwelling persons aged 75 years and older in 2008 (response rate 42%). A subset of all respondents participated 1 year later (N = 336, 69%) and again 2 years later (N= 266, 55%). We used the TFI, the Groningen Activity Restriction Scale assessing disability, seven indicators of health care utilization, and a brief version of the World Health Organization Quality of Life questionnaire (WHOQ0L-BREF). The WHOQOL-BREF was assessed in 2008 and 2010; all others were assessed in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Results: The predictive validity of the TFI assessed in 2008 for disability, health care utilization, and quality of life was corroborated by (a) medium to very large associations of frailty with adverse outcomes 1 or 2 years later; (b) mostly good to excellent area under the curve of total frailty; and (c) an increase in predictive accuracy of most adverse outcomes, even after controlling for that same adverse outcome in 2008, and life-course determinants and multimorbidity. Physical frailty was mostly responsible for the predictive validity of the TFI. Implications: This study showed that the TFI is a valid instrument to predict disability, many indicators of health care utilization, and quality of life of older people, 1 and 2 years later.