Successful aging as the intersection of individual resources, age, environment, and experiences of well-being in daily activities

Shannon T. Mejía, Lindsay H. Ryan, Richard Gonzalez, Jacqui Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: We conceptualize successful aging as a cumulative index of individual resources (the absence of disease and disability, high cognitive and physical functioning, social embeddedness) in the service of successful aging outcomes (global well-being, experienced well-being, and vital status), and conditioned by age, social structure, and environment. Method: The study used baseline and follow-up data from the 2008-2014 waves of the Health and Retirement Study (N = 17,230; age = 51-101). Linear, multilevel, and logistic models compared individual resources at baseline as independent, cumulative, and binary predictors of outcomes 4 years later. Results: Individual resources were unequally distributed across age group and social structures (education, wealth, race, gender) and had a cumulative effect on all successful aging outcomes. For experienced well-being, individual resources were most important at midlife and for groups with lower education. Person-environment congruence (social cohesion, city satisfaction) was associated with all successful aging outcomes and conditioned the effect of individual resources on experienced well-being. Discussion: A cumulative index allows for gradations in resources that can be compensated for by external factors such as person-environment congruence. This index could guide policy and interventions to enhance resources in vulnerable subgroups and diminish inequalities in successful aging outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-289
Number of pages11
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Everyday activity participation
  • Experienced well-being
  • Health and Retirement Study
  • Person-environment congruence
  • Successful aging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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