Older adults' perspectives on successful aging: qualitative interviews

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2010 Jul;18(7):567-75. doi: 10.1097/jgp.0b013e3181e040bb.


Objectives: Lay perceptions of "successful aging" are important for understanding this multifaceted construct and developing ways to assist older adults to age well. The purpose of this qualitative study was to obtain older adults' individual perspectives on what constitutes successful aging along with their views regarding activities and interventions to enhance its likelihood.

Methods: Qualitative interviews were conducted with 22 community-dwelling adults older than 60 years. Participants were recruited from retirement communities, a low-income senior housing complex, and a continued learning center in San Diego County, CA. Interview transcripts were analyzed using a "Coding Consensus, Co-occurrence, and Comparison" grounded theory framework.

Results: The mean age of participants was 80 years (range: 64-96 years), with 59% being women.Two primary themes were identified as key to successful aging, i.e., self-acceptance/self contentment(with subthemes of realistic self-appraisal, a review of one's life, and focusing on the present) and engagement with life/self-growth (with sub themes of novel pursuits, giving to others, social interactions, and positive attitude). A balance between these two constructs seemed critical. A need for interventions that address support systems and personally tailored information to make informed decisions and enhance coping strategies were also emphasized.

Conclusions: Older adults viewed successful aging as a balance between self-acceptance and self-contentedness on one hand and engagement with life and self-growth in later life on the other. This perspective supports the concept of wisdom as a major contributor to successful aging. Interventions to enhance successful aging may include those that promote productive and social engagement along with effective coping strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Concept*
  • Self-Assessment
  • Social Support