Cognitive and non-cognitive factors contributing to the longitudinal identification of successful older adults in the betula study

Neuropsychol Dev Cogn B Aging Neuropsychol Cogn. 2007 May;14(3):257-73. doi: 10.1080/13825580600582412.


Studies of successful aging have typically defined elderly who fall in the upper end of a distribution of test scores as successful. A different definition of successful aging requires that older adults fall at or above the mean level of younger adults and maintain this level over time. Here we examined this definition of successful aging in a sample of 1463 individuals between the ages of 50 of 85. Based on principal coordinate analysis of cognitive and non-cognitive variables, we identified a group of 55 (8.3%) 70-85 years olds that were high functioning. This group of elderly showed elevated performance on a range of cognitive tasks. Non-cognitive factors that characterized this group included education and subjective health. The participants were retested 5 years later and the same type of analysis was repeated. Of the remaining individuals who initially were classified as high functioning, 18 (35%) remained high functioning and thus met the definition for successful aging. Years of education was a significant predictor of who remained successful over time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment*
  • Humans
  • Identification, Psychological*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Social Class*