Rowe and Kahn identified factors found in people who age "successfully". These can serve as goals to help guide people as they get older. They also help dispel some myths associated with aging that suggest decrepitude is constant and unavoidable.


Elements of successful aging:

(1) low probability of disease and disease-related disability (absence of illness, disability, comorbid conditions and risk factors)

(2) high cognitive and physical functional capacity (presence of health)

(3) active engagement with life


Absence of Illness and Disability


Disability can be measured as abilities to independently perform the activities of daily living.


Modifiable risk factors associated with common diseases:

(1) smoking

(2) obesity

(3) control of diabetes

(4) control of hypertension

(5) adherence to medication regimens


Functional Capacity


Predictors of cognitive functional capacity:

(1) perceived self-efficacy, with feelings of mastery and control on affairs and environment

(2) level of strenuous physical activity at and around the house

(3) education

(4) peak pulmonary flow rate


Opposites of self-efficacy:

(1) labeled vulnerability

(2) fatalism


Predictors of physical functional capacity:

(1) moderate or strenuous leisure activities

(2) emotional support from family and friends


Active Engagement


Features of active engagement with life:

(1) social and interpersonal relationships

(2) productive activity (working, volunteering, caring for others, cleaning house, or other activities)


Types of beneficial social relationships:

(1) socioemotional, with expressions of affection and respect

(2) instrumental, with direct assistance, either physical, monetary or temporal


Negative social relationships:

(1) social isolation

(2) abusive relationships


Predictors of productive activity:

(1) functional capacity

(2) education

(3) self-efficacy



• The percentage of people who can meet all of Rowe and Kahn's criteria is small. If the criteria are viewed as an ideal, then this need not be viewed as a problem. It could be a problem if people who do not meet the goals are viewed as failures.

• Strawbridge et al have found that people who rate themselves as aging successfully may fail to meet all of the criteria.


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