Successful Aging as the Intersection of Individual Resources, Age, Environment, and Experiences of Well-being in Daily Activities

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.