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Multiple Perspectives on the Meaning of Engagement in Later Life

the gerontological society of america's 65th annual scientific meeting in san diego, ca


  • Jacquelyn B. James (presenter)
  • Elyssa Besen
  • Jennifer Coplon

Date of presentation:  November 17th, 2012

Successful aging takes on many different meanings for adults. Some adults focus on the importance of health while others focus on finding meaning in life. There is little consensus in the academic literature as to what constitutes successful aging, and oftentimes these definitions vary greatly from how older adults themselves would define successful aging. One common theme that has emerged from qualitative inquiries into successful aging is the importance of activity in later life. Little is known though about how definitions of successful aging relate to actual engagement in activities. The current study examines definitions of successful aging from over 700 adults and how they relate to engagement. The most common theme in the definitions was the importance of social relationships followed by the importance of activity. The relationships among the themes and engagement in four activities (paid employment, volunteering, caregiving, and education) will be discussed.