Health and well-being in the young old and oldest old

Smith, J., Borchelt, M., Maier, H., Jopp, D.

Journal of Social Issues, 58:4, 715-732 (2002)


Most individuals experience a decline in health status during old age. Paradoxically, there are proposals that older adults nevertheless maintain a positive sense of well–being, an indicator of successful aging. Data from the Berlin Aging Study (BASE: Baltes & Mayer, 1999), a locally representative sample of men and women aged 70 to 100+ (N = 516, M = 85 years), suggest that cumulative health–related chronic life strains set a constraint on the potential of oldest old individuals to experience the positive side of life. The young old in BASE reported significantly higher positive SWB than did the oldest old. Chronic illness and functional impairments (e.g., vision, hearing, mobility, strength) limit well–being especially in very old age.