Successful aging as a continuum of functional independence: lessons from physical disability models of aging

Aging Dis. 2012 Feb;3(1):5-15. Epub 2011 Aug 15.


Successful aging is a multidimensional construct that could be viewed as a continuum of achievement. Based on the disability model proposed by the WHO International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health, successful aging includes not only the presence or absence of disease, but also aspects of mobility and social participation. Here we review definitions of successful aging and discuss relevance of the disability model in the evaluation of successful aging and frailty. In particular, we summarize evidences that highlight the importance of measures of mobility (ability to walk and perform activities of daily living), and social participation in identifying and locating older adults across the range of the successful aging continuum. Lastly, we discuss the role of inflammation in age-related decline and in frailty. Future research directions are proposed, including identifying causal pathways among inflammatory markers, disability, and frailty. A better understanding of immunological functioning in late life may help unlock novel ways to promote successful aging.

Keywords: frailty; inflammation; mobility; participation.