Can healthy ageing be achieved globally?

As scientists the world over are searching for the elixir of life for healthy ageing, some top researchers now suggest that the concept of successful ageing should be abandoned, pointing to social inequalities and the problems associated with labelling a person an “unsuccessful ager”. Through a series of 16 articles that appeared in the journal The Gerontologist, a team has looked back at the progress made over the past 28 years into what successful ageing is.

The paper lays the groundwork for building consensus on the topic – while pointing out that the answer may differ among academics and the general public as well as across populations and demographic groups. “With an enhanced understanding of what successful ageing is, we will be in a stronger position to develop interventions that will enable more people to age successfully,” said Rachel Pruchno, editor of The Gerontologist.

The sheer number of people comprising the baby boom generation transformed academic interest in successful ageing to a public policy imperative. “Now more than ever, it is critical to develop science that empowers people to experience the best old age possible,” she added. The issue includes a number of groundbreaking studies involving several segments of the US population.

For example, one of the articles reports on the first study to examine physical and mental health quality of life among the older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) population. A further article addresses the growing body of literature suggesting that black women experience a number of social challenges that may present a barrier to ageing successfully.

The issue also contains articles examining successful ageing across cultures. It reports that young, middle-aged and older people from the US and Germany have quite similar concepts of successful ageing which they view in far more multi-dimensional terms than do established scientific theories.

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