Understanding Successful Ageing: Theories and Influencing Factors


Ageing is referred to progressive physiological alteration in the individuals which leads them to face senescence or decline in the body functions making individuals develop the ability to adapt to increased metabolic stress (Green, 2016). In this assignment, the overview and theories regarding successful ageing are to be discussed and the factors influencing successful ageing is to be explained.

Overview of Successful Ageing

The successful ageing is referred to the lack of risks of disease as well as illness-related disability, increased physiological and psychological functioning and engagement of an individual with life in active nature that includes management of effective social support and autonomy (Green, 2016). This means that longevity, lack of disease and happiness indicates successful ageing among individuals. The medical perspective informs that proper survival, effective mental and physical health, ability to function normally and proper social engagement with progressing age is related to successful ageing (Green, 2016).


Importance and History of the concept of successful ageing

The successful ageing is important to determine the nature of things to be focussed to assist others adults of the age regarding the way they can succeed in later life to maintain proper health and well-being (Carver and Buchanan, 2016). As mentioned by Carver and Buchanan (2016), successful ageing is important as it leads elder people to have greater satisfaction with life and positive state of affection. This is because elder people even with their progressing age would not require assistance or become dependent on the family members for their care due to age-related issues in successful ageing. The history regarding successful ageing initiated from the 1950s and the concept was found to be popularised in the 1980s with the launch of Rowe and Kahn’s theory of successful ageing in 1987. The traditional concepts regarding successful ageing have mentioned it to the absence of any form of cognitive or physical disabilities among people with growing age. However, the Rowe and Kahn model for successful ageing added that greater engagement with life and lack of disability and illness are also related to successful ageing (Wirths and Williams, 2017).

Bio-psycho-social theory of Ageing

The Bio-psycho-social theory of ageing informs that subjective well-being is a criterion for successful ageing and psychological, behavioural and social factors along with biological and physical factors are related to successful old age without health issues. The Bio-psycho-social theory informs that to enhance subjective well-being in successful ageing proper personal dispositions and effective management of socio-structural constraints are to be made which presently acting as a restriction for people to age successfully. The theory informs that to age successfully through effective well-being the older individuals are required to have proper socio-economic status and have facility required for their current complications to be faced with age to help them have enhanced cognitive and mental process (Teo et al. 2019). This is because without stable socio-economic status the person would remain bothered and stressed regarding their, power, financial ability, privileges and resources required for survival to be accessed to ensure their well-being. The theory also informs that successful ageing occurs when the adults are allowed to set and pursue their own valued goals in life as it promotes positive behaviour and low score for neuroticism (Teo et al. 2019). This is because the ability to accomplish own goals makes elderly individuals feel confident and showcase enthusiastic behaviour out of satisfaction in leading life.

Theories and Models of Successful ageing

The Disengagement Theory regarding ageing informs that ageing is a nature of the inevitable process and it leads the individuals to make mutual withdrawal from the society by disengaging themselves. This leads them to show decreased interaction in society and express less belonging to social system (Asiamah, 2017). This informs that it is natural for elderly people with age to avoid involvement with the society. However, it critics Rowe and Kahn’s theory of successful ageing which informs that social engagement is an essential aspect of people to age in successful manner (Subramaniam et al. 2019). The criticism regarding disengagement theory of ageing is that withdrawal of the elder people from the society is voluntary and not permanent as mentioned by the theory (Asiamah, 2017). The Activity theory of ageing mentions successful ageing is able to occur when elderly individuals have the intention to stay active and manage proper social interaction (Green, 2016). The theory supports the Vaillant theory of successful ageing as it also mentioned successful ageing occurs with elders showing proper activity and social engagement such as playing (Ardelt et al. 2018). However, the criticism regarding activity theory is that it has overlooked inequalities in health and socio-economic condition which in turn hinders the older people’s ability to engage in activities (Ardelt et al. 2018).

The Ryff’s theory of psychological well-being informs six key aspects of positive functioning which are self-acceptance, maintaining positive relationship with others, controlling personal environment, have purpose of life, personal growth and autonomy (Hsu et al. 2017). The successful ageing theory informs that autonomy and control of environment are key aspects in the process (Subramaniam et al. 2019). Thus, Ryff's theory supports the successful ageing theory of Rowe and Kahn as it has also mentioned the key aspects such as autonomy for ageing successfully in the theory. However, the criticism of Ryff’s theory is that it relies on psychological well-being based on self-reported assessments which tends the older people to reveal information regarding successful ageing that are socially desirable rather than actual response (Calero and Navarro, 2018).

SOC model of successful ageing

The Selection, Optimisation and Compensation (SOC) Model mentions that successful ageing approaches include selection of proper functional domains that focuses on one’s resources, optimised development potential and compensation for losses. This is it ensures the proper function is maintained, gains are maximised and losses are minimised for individuals to promote successful ageing (Green, 2016). According to the SOC model, the selection includes development, elaboration and commitment to personal goals so that organised behaviour can be ensured in old age. The optimisation in the SOC model is required in successful ageing as it engages individuals in positive regulative functions regarding growth-related goals. The compensation to maintain positive function in the face of losses in ageing is essential for sustained growth in successful ageing (Green, 2016).

Proactivity Model of Successful Ageing

The Proactivity model informs that with age different social and health stressors accumulates in the body and the individuals who by maintaining proper physical and mental health through use of enacted resources in proactive manners are able to age successfully. The model informs to age successfully elders need to remain socially active (Zacher and Kooij, 2017). The criticism of Proactivity model for successful ageing is that elders may not able to determine proper resources by identifying the age-related stressors at the right time. This would create hindrance for the elders to remain healthy in consistent manner to reach successful ageing (Zacher and Kooij, 2017).

Biomedical Model of Successful Ageing

The Biomedical Model informs that successful ageing is possible by lowering the deterioration of mental and physical health along with disability (Ostaszkiewicz et al. 2018). This is because lack of disease would improve the life expectancy of elders as well as help them have better mood and zeal to live life successfully. The weakness regarding biomedical model is that it do not informs the way health issues are to be resolved so that successful ageing can be maintained (Ostaszkiewicz et al. 2018).

Factors influencing successful ageing

The factors which support successful ageing include positive health status, better socio-economic condition, lack of depression along with hopelessness, effective psychosocial support and others (Green, 2016). The psychosocial support is required for people to successfully age as it helps them to retain positive behaviour in old age out of value and support from the society and family (Green, 2016). The favourable mental and physical health is one of the key factors in successful ageing as it ensures effective health status and lack of disability among the people (Green, 2016). The presence of effective functional capacity also influences successful ageing as it leads elder people to avoid being burden of care and experience self-satisfaction in taking their own care to lead on person terms (Green, 2016). The physical factors such as avoiding to smoke or taking alcohol, involve in healthy eating, execute regular exercise and others influences successful ageing as it leads the individuals to stay physically fit avoiding any nature of the age-related illness to affect in deteriorating their health condition (Green, 2016).

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The above discussion informs that successful ageing is to maintain longevity, effective social connections and proper mental as well as physical health status. The Activity theory, Ryff’s psychological well-being and Continuity theory are seen to provide proper concept of successful ageing.


Ardelt, M., Gerlach, K.R. and Vaillant, G.E., 2018. Early and midlife predictors of wisdom and subjective well-being in old age. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 73(8), pp.1514-1525.

Asiamah, N., 2017. Social engagement and physical activity: Commentary on why the activity and disengagement theories of ageing may both be valid. Cogent Medicine, 4(1), p.1289664.

Carver, L.F. and Buchanan, D., 2016. Successful aging: considering non-biomedical constructs. Clinical interventions in aging, 11, p.1623.

Green, L., 2016. Understanding the life course: sociological and psychological perspectives. John Wiley & Sons.

Hsu, H.Y., Hsu, T.L., Lee, K. and Wolff, L., 2017. Evaluating the construct validity of Ryff’s scales of psychological well-being using exploratory structural equation modeling. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 35(6), pp.633-638. Zhang, W., Lacanienta, J., Liu, S. and Wu, B., 2018. Successful ageing or resilient ageing: perceptions from elderly Chinese in Hawai’i. China Journal of Social Work, 11(3), pp.236-245.

Hwang, Y.I., Foley, K.R. and Trollor, J.N., 2018. Aging well on the autism spectrum: an examination of the dominant model of successful aging. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, pp.1-10.

Ostaszkiewicz, J., Dunning, T. and Streat, S., 2018. Models of care for aged care-social or biomedical?. Australian Nursing and Midwifery Journal, 25(7), p.45.

Subramaniam, M., Abdin, E., Vaingankar, J.A., Sambasivam, R., Seow, E., Picco, L., Chua, H.C., Mahendran, R., Ng, L.L. and Chong, S.A., 2019. Successful ageing in Singapore: prevalence and correlates from a national survey of older adults. Singapore medical journal, 60(1), p.22.

Teo, N., Yeo, P.S., Gao, Q., Nyunt, M.S.Z., Foo, J.J., Wee, S.L. and Ng, T.P., 2019. A bio-psycho-social approach for frailty amongst Singaporean Chinese community-dwelling older adults–evidence from the Singapore Longitudinal Aging Study. BMC geriatrics, 19(1), p.350.

Wirths, C.G. and Williams, R.A., 2017. Lives through the years: Styles of life and successful aging. London: Routledge.

Zacher, H. and Kooij, D.T.A.M., 2017. Aging and proactivity. Proactivity at work: Making things happen in organizations, pp.258-294.

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