Successful aging: An obscure but obvious construct

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Philosophers and scientists have long-struggled to define and assess what it means to age successfully and to identify strategies by which people can achieve that goal. The quest to understand successful aging, however, has been a journey filled with contention and confusion. This chapter begins by examining the words that have been used to capture the spirit of prospering over time. Then, the biblical and philosophical underpinnings of successful aging are examined. Next, the clash that began over 70 years ago between scholars who believed that successful aging was based on the subjective perceptions of older people and those convinced that successful aging was based on objective biomedical statuses is described. Subsequently, the chapter shows how the collision of the objective and subjective definitions of successful aging at the turn of the 21st century raised old as well as new questions, including how to define and predict successful aging. After that, the chapter shows how a new paradigm for thinking about successful aging developed and why successful aging is important to public health. Finally, directions for future research are identified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of the Psychology of Aging
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780128160947
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


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