Background: Aging is characterized by loss of function and represents a perspective that puts the focus on the negative aspects of aging. Thus, it is fundamental to shift the focus from loss of function to maintaining good health and personal satisfaction through life; in other words, to promote optimal functionality at a level appropriate for older adults. However, it is not yet known what constitutes optimal functionality from the older adult's own perspective.
Objective: To explore the concept of optimal functionality in old age from the older adult's perspective (ie, people over 65 years of age) in industrialized Western countries.
Methods: We undertook a scoping review and searched two electronic databases (PubMed and the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature [CINAHL]) from January 2002 to July 2013 for scientific studies, using the key search term personal satisfaction. In total, 25 scientific studies were analyzed.
Results: Only six of the included articles applied a qualitative methodology. By analyzing the results of these articles, three major themes were identified as cornerstones in the concept of optimal functionality at old age: 1) self-related factors (eg, mental well-being); 2) body-related factors (eg, physical well-being); and 3) external factors equal to demographic and environmental factors.
Conclusion: There is a lack of qualitative studies in the current literature, and hence of what constitutes optimal functionality from the older adult's perspective. The results outlined in this review identify three cornerstones (self-related factors, body-related factors, and external factors) of what constitutes optimal functionality at old age. However, it is vital that these findings are taken further and are evaluated through qualitative studies to reflect older adults' opinions.
Keywords: aging; optimal functionality; personal satisfaction.