Aging Well

Observations from the Women's Health Initiative Study

Published in: The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, v.71, no. 1, 2016, p. S3-S12

Posted on RAND.org on February 10, 2016

by Nancy F. Woods, Eileen Rillamas-Sun, Barbara B. Cochrane, Andrea Z. LaCroix, Teresa E. Seeman, Hilary A. Tindle, Oleg Zaslavsky, Chloe E. Bird, Karen C. Johnson, JoAnn E Manson, Judith Ockene, Rebecca A. Seguin, Robert Wallace

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BACKGROUND: As the proportion of the population aged 80 and over accelerates, so does the value of understanding the processes of aging well. The purposes of this article are to: (a) review contemporary theoretical and conceptual perspectives on aging well, (b) describe indicators of aging well that reflect key concepts and perspectives as assessed in the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) and (c) characterize the status of aging among women aged 80 and older using data obtained from WHI participants at the WHI Extension 2 follow-up. METHODS: Data from the Lifestyle Questionnaire, which was administered from 2011 to 2012 during the WHI Follow-up Study (Extension 2), were analyzed to provide a profile of the WHI cohort with respect to aging well. RESULTS: Data revealed substantial diversity in the cohort with respect to the various measures of aging well. Although many reported physical functioning levels consistent with disability, most rated their health as good or better. Most reported moderately high levels of resilience, self-control, and self-mastery but lower levels of environmental mastery. Finally, the cohort reported high levels of optimal aging as reflected by their high levels of emotional well-being and moderately high levels of life satisfaction and social support, but more modest levels of personal growth and purpose in life. CONCLUSIONS: The wide range of some dimensions of aging well suggest that further examination of predictors of positive coping and resilience in the face of aging-related disability could identify opportunities to support and facilitate aging well among U.S. women.

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