v. Annette Johannesen
Successful ageing is a term used by gerontologists all over the world to describe an ageing course of unusual qualities. In most studies of successful ageing elderly people express their wish for a long life, but they also wish for a life, where they may still be active, enjoy things and feel the respect of their contemporaries.
International researchers have found that the following parameters go into a definition of successful ageing – meaning ageing in an agreeable way:
- Having a long life
- Being healthy (physically, mentally and cognitively)
- Maintaining social status
- Being active and contributing
- Deciding for oneself
- Able to express their satisfaction
- Mastering impairments
With elderly people who become disabled for one reason or the other – it could be a fall, an apoplexy, or a rheumatic aggravation – it is difficult to assess, how much they will be set back for the rest of their lives. Some will recover quickly and learn to compensate for their losses. Others will have their spark of life impaired and their everyday undertakings will be sorely reduced.
Successful ageing in spite of frailty?
When survivors from one of the first major population studies in Denmark – “Studies of the 1914-cohort from Glostrup” – were questioned again as 85-year olds in 2000, I was a research assistant and able to meet and listen to them talking about their days, and about how they felt they were getting along.
Five years later I had the opportunity to meet and interview ten of them again – now they were 90 years old. With a research grant from two Danish social organizations I have been able to go deeper as well into the answers of the 85-years olds as into other studies of successful ageing.
This afforded the opportunity to find answer to questions like…
- How is the everyday life of people of 85 years?
- How do they manage serious impairments?
- What characterizes those who are doing well in spite of their impairments?
- Is there a connection between existing principles of social policy and how people with impairment enjoy their lives?
See articles I have written about this study: here >>
See my dissertation for the degree of Master of Science in Occupational Therapy,
Queen Margaret University College, Edinburgh:
"A study of old people who in spite of frailty are coping successfully with changes in their daily life. Factors and competencies which help them to manage their situation"