Happiness in old age the result of successfully aging

Though the traditional mentality is to view aging as an unwelcomed natural phenomenon, a recent study offers a different interpretation.

Legend has it that Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon went adventuring through what is now Florida looking for a fountain of youth. In the twenty-first century, those who buy Restylane from an online pharmacy may be seeking a younger appearance and feel just like Ponce de Leon and those who came before him. However, though the traditional mentality is to view aging as an unwelcomed natural phenomenon, a recent study offers a different interpretation.

SAGE study
Researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Stanford University surveyed 1,006 adults between the ages of 50 and 99 years for a comprehensive study that measured how effective this population was at successfully aging into their later years. The Successful Aging Evaluation (SAGE) report was based on a 25-minute phone interview and follow-up mail-in evaluation. The SAGE survey's findings will be published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

"While there is a growing public health interest in understanding and promoting successful aging, until now little published research has combined measures of physical health with cognitive and psychological assessments, in a large and randomly selected sample," said principal investigator Dilip V. Jeste, M.D., Estelle and Edgar Levi Chair in Aging, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences, and director of UC San Diego's Stein Institute for Research on Aging.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging (AOA), Americans above the age of 65 numbered more than 40 million in 2010, an overall increase of close to 5 million since 2000. About one in every eight people, or 13 percent of the U.S. population, is an older American. Upon reaching this demographic, people at 65 years have an average life expectancy of close to 19 additional years.

Happiness determined from living well
To determine if participants had "successfully aged," the SAGE study gave respondents a 10-point scale to rate their own personal interpretation of the term. Based on the findings, the study found that even when accounting for significant variables such as income, education, marriage and physical and cognitive decline, those individuals who rated their aging success higher believed themselves to have lived well. Those with low physical functioning were found to have a similar score as those suffering from moderate or severe depression.

"Perfect physical health is neither necessary nor sufficient," said Jeste. "There is potential for enhancing successful aging by fostering resilience and treating or preventing depression."