Graduation Year

2005

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Aging Studies

Major Professor

Kathryn Hyer, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Cathy McEvoy, Ph.D.

Keywords

Successful aging, Continuing care retirement communities, CCRC, Physical health, Social engagement, Intellectual challenge, Bmi, Fruit and vegetable consumption, Volunteerism, Exercise, Self-rated health, Mobility, Productive activities, Social support, Spiritial fulfillment

Abstract

Rowe and Kahns theory of successful aging identifies three main components of aging successfully: reducing the risk of disease and disability, maintaining high cognitive and physical function, and engagement with life. While there is compelling evidence that suggests the legitimacy of this concept in the 50-75 year old community dwelling population, three areas of expansion are necessary: 1.) programmatic research; 2.) extending the existing research samples to include older samples and those living in continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs); and 3.) the integration of data collection and analysis to move beyond investigation of just one successful aging outcome to include elements of all three components of successful aging.

Longitudinal analysis utilizing hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) was conducted on a convenience sample of 136 older adults (mean age = 80.8 years at baseline) participating in a pilot community-wide successful aging program over a 26-month period. Results indicate the sample reported exercising frequently, ate recommended levels of fruits and vegetables, had healthy BMIs, had positive ratings of health, were highly involved in productive activities, and were satisfied with their ability to give and receive social support at baseline. High levels of mobility were measured in the sample. Participants maintained this picture of successful aging over time for the majority of outcome variables, though significant declines in self-reported health were observed. Participants also reported improvements in their satisfaction with receiving social support.

Results support four major conclusions: 1.) The three criteria of successful aging identified by Rowe and Kahn (1997) were observed among older adults living in CCRCs who were enrolled in a successful aging program. 2.) Stability was observed on a number of the outcomes over 26 months in this convenience sample, which has implications for intervention/programmatic research. Despite the traditional improvement-oriented focus of programmatic research, stability or maintenance of well-being over time should be viewed as a positive outcome in older age, particularly when compared to national data depicting trends of decline. 3.) The interdependence of current results support the notion that successful aging programming needs to include multi-disciplinary intervention strategies, as supported by the finding that modifiers of physical, social, and intellectual well-being include constructs from each of the components of successful aging.

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