Maximizing the Productive
Engagement of Older Adults
As discussed throughout this book, life expectancy has changed dramatically since the turn of the last century. According to the Center for Disease Control (1999), a person retiring at age 65 has another 18 years of life ahead. In the face of this longevity, gerontology scholars have focused on well-being within those extended years. Data from the MacArthur Foundation Study of Successful Aging suggest that successful aging has three components: low probability of disease, high functioning, and active engagement with life (Rowe & Kahn, 1998). Further, Rowe and Kahn suggest that active engagement with life has two major components: activity and social support. Indeed, activity has long been associated with positive outcomes in later life (as cited in Everard, Lach, Fisher, 8c Baum, 2000). However, there are numerous types of activity. In fact, the “busy” ethic that has shaped modern retirement seems to suggest that any activity will do (Ekerdt, 1986). But Freedman (2001) argues that all activity is not created equal—to the individual, to the family, or to society.
This chapter focuses on a certain subset of activities—namely, productive activity. There are many definitions of productive activity offered in the literature. We use a narrow definition offered by Bass, Caro, and Chen (1993): Productive activity is any activity that