Lay perceptions of successful ageing: findings from a national survey of middle aged and older adults in Britain
European Journal of Ageing, 3, (3), . (doi:10.1007/s10433-006-0032-2).
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The main aim of the research presented here was to identify perceptions of successful ageing among people in middle and older age groups. The method was a British population survey of 854 community-dwelling men and women aged 50 or more. Just over three-quarters of respondents rated themselves as ageing successfully (“very well” or “well”). Respondents’ definitions of successful ageing, and the reasons given for their self-ratings, based on open-ended questioning, illustrated the multidimensionality of the concept. Definitions varied with respondents’ characteristics. Self-rated health status and quality of life consistently retained significance in the multivariate models of predictors of self-rated successful ageing, while self-rated quality of life made the greatest contribution to the models. Reporting a longstanding, limiting illness was not significant. The overall models explained about a third of the variation in self-rated successful aging. Lay definitions of successful ageing were multidimensional. A biomedical perspective of successful ageing therefore needs balancing with a psycho-social perspective, and vice versa. This is particularly relevant for biomedical approaches which have largely ignored the rich tradition of social and psychological research on this topic. Self-rated successful ageing should be included in measuring instruments to enhance social relevance. This research, with the use of open-ended questioning, makes a novel methodological contribution to the literature, is unique in questioning middle aged as well as older people, and provides a British perspective on a largely US and German topic.
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