What is Successful Aging?

In 1984 Drs. Kahn and Rowe defined successful aging and listed it’s three determining factors:
•    Good health, low risk of disease and disability.
•    High mental and physical functioning.
•    Active engagement with life, an active life.

According to a MacArthur Foundation study, it is currently estimated that of all the human beings who have ever lived to be 65 years or older, half are currently alive.

Life expectancy at age 65 for the average American in now 17 years.

There have been two major phases in the improvement of life expectancy during the last 200 years:

• The reduction of infant mortality and childhood deaths in the 19th and early 20th centuries because of better prenatal care, clean water, increase in the food supply, and the control of infectious diseases.
• The decline of the death rate of middle-aged and older people because they take better care of themselves, as well as advancements in science and medicine.

Centurions, people age 100 or older, were rare in 1900, swelled to 32,000 in the U.S. by 1982, increased to 50,454 in 2000, and its projected to be over 600,000 by the middle of the 21st century.

215 people reach age 100 everyday in the U.S.
Four out of five centurions are women.
Aging is a women’s issue in many ways — among those 85 or older, there are five women for every two men.

As a senior citizen myself, I have written about successful aging numerous times. That’s why we have an aging tag on the right and you can search aging if you select it in our category section also.

Although my mother lived to 95 she suffered from dementia in her final years which greatly diminished her quality of life. I am hoping to avoid that through my attention to general physical and mental health as explained in my contributions to this blog. Check out my Page – Important Facts About Your Brain (and Exercise Benefits).

It is enlightening to read statistics and conclusions like those in the MacArthur Foundation study above. I would also like to share a flesh and blood example of successful aging in my experience.

I met Marina in the park while walking my dog, Gabi, in Lakeshore East Park in Chicago. In fact, it was Gabi who introduced us.

My dog is a very calm little poodle. I call her my Buddha Poodle because she is able to ride on the bike with me in utter calm. I have heard people say as we pass, “Do you think that’s a real dog.”

I was walking my little Buddha Poodle one day when suddenly she bolted away from me, pulling the leash right out of my hand. I watched horrified as Gabi jumped up on a bench and climbed up on a very old woman’s lap.

My shock was relieved when I heard the lady laughing as she put her arms around Gabi. I tried apologizing to her, but she spoke no English. The good news is that she was delighted by the intrusion and not troubled in the least by this stranger’s dog jumping up on her. As you can see from the photos, she has a ready smile. She clearly knows what it means to be happy. Gabi obviously responded to it.

Marina and Gabi last Fall

That was several years ago. I have since learned that the lady’s name is Marina. She lives here with her granddaughter and husband.

Marina also happens to be the granddaughter’s name. She is the one who told me about the elder Marina.

As a teenager she survived a labor camp of Stalin. She worked in engineering.
Marina, the granddaughter and her husband, Greg, brought her to the U.S. and look after her here. She has a vibrant mind and has learned a number of English phrases since our first encounter when she spoke no English and I spoke no Russian.

I see her in the park nearly every day as she does her walks. She often carries a book and will sit and read in the park. Gabi can not be restrained when she sees Marina. She has to go visit her.

On Sunday, March 11, Marina turned 93. Here is a photo from her birthday party.

Happy Birthday, Marina! I was fortunate enough to attend and get to see the several generations of her family that are now living in Chicago.

I consider Marina to be an inspiration regarding successful aging. She seems to embody all the elements that Drs. Kahn and Rowe listed.

Many happy returns, Marina!


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Filed under aging, Exercise, happiness, walking

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