Aging, Communication, and Health: Linking Research and Practice for Successful Aging

Aging, Communication, and Health: Linking Research and Practice for Successful Aging

Aging, Communication, and Health: Linking Research and Practice for Successful Aging

Aging, Communication, and Health: Linking Research and Practice for Successful Aging

Synopsis

This collection highlights the current efforts by scholars and researchers to understand the aging process as it relates to the health of older adults. With contributions from international scholars in communication, psychology, public health, medicine, nursing, and other areas, this volume emphasizes communication as a critical research, education, policy, and practice issue for the design, provision, and evaluation of health and social services for older adults. Organized into sections addressing communication developments in the healthcare arena, issues in provider-patient communication, and the relationships between family communication and health. The chapters cover critical topics related to successful aging, such as Alzheimer's disease, managed care and older adults, communication issues of severe dementia, and healthcare decision-making within families. The editors have designed this volume to be accessible to a broad audience, including scholars and students of aging and communication, healthcare practitioners with older clients, and aging individuals and their families who are pursuing strategies for successful aging. The chapters represent the highest levels of current scholarship on communication, aging, and health, providing a strong foundation for future research. Each contribution also addresses the applied implications of this research, offering practical guidance to readers dealing with these issues in their own lives. As a whole, Aging, Communication, and Health represents a major advance toward understanding the importance and application of communication for successful aging.

Excerpt

Successful aging—each of us hopes that this term will characterize our individual experiences of growing older and the experiences of those we love. Yet what does it mean to age successfully? Simply to live a long life? To run a marathon at age 80? To get older without looking older as advertisements for cosmetics and plastic surgery suggest? To have the economic resources to retire to a life of leisure as the financial investment advertisements suggest? To live the final years of one's life surrounded by loving children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren as in a greeting card ad? In their 1998 landmark book reporting the results of the 10-year MacArthur Foundation Study of Aging in America, physician John Rowe and psychologist Robert Kahn show that the answer is more complex. Successful aging, they argue, involves three interrelated components: “low risk of disease and disease-related disability; high mental and physical function; and active engagement with life” (p. 38). We might paraphrase this list to say that successful aging is healthy aging—healthy body, healthy mind, and healthy relationships.

Rowe and Kahn (1998) see these three components as hierarchically ordered in that avoiding disease and disability “makes it easier to maintain mental and physical function… [which] in turn enables (but does not guarantee) active engagement with life” (p. 39). Physical health is foundational in the ideal model of successful aging. Unfortunately, the physical health of the majority of older individuals today conforms not to the ideal of successful aging, but to what Rowe and Kahn label “usual aging” (p. 54).

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