Successful Aging: Multiple Trajectories and Population Heterogeneity

Fengyan Tang


Following Rowe and Kahn’s successful aging model, this study identified successful aging as a distinctive aging trajectory and examined gender differences in the aging process. Using the Health and Retirement Study data (2000-2008), this study applied group-based trajectory analysis to identify multiple aging trajectories in a sample of older Americans aged 65 and over (N=9,226). Six dimensions were analyzed in the multi-trajectory model: chronic disease, physical functional limitation, disability, depressive symptom, cognitive functioning, and active engagement with life. Three aging trajectory groups were identified: successful aging, usual aging, and pathological aging in both samples of men and women. About one third of women and 40 percent of men fell into the successful aging trajectory. Women were more likely than men to experience functional limitations and disability over time, thus less likely to age successfully. Younger age and higher levels of education and income were related to the likelihood of successful aging. Findings provide support for a multidimensional model of successful aging that emphasizes the heterogeneity in physical, cognitive, and social functioning among the older population. Future research need incorporate subjective assessments of successful aging, examine the potential transitions among different aging trajectories, and assess the impacts of health behavior and resource variables on the aging outcomes.

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International Journal of Social Science Studies   ISSN 2324-8033 (Print)   ISSN 2324-8041 (Online)

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