In this paper we explore the relationship between culture and successful aging. Theories of aging have proposed that there is a dynamic relationship between the physical and social environment and the quality of the aging experience. The average life expectancy in Western societies is currently 76; one hundred years ago it was 49. One of the most serious economic considerations facing the world in the 21st century is how to cover the cost of health care for an increasing older adult population. Aging is not only a biological phenomena, it is also socially and culturally constructed. Age norms and expectations influence the ways in which later life is lived.
Social integration and physical activity are two of the most important factors determining health and well being in later adulthood. Older adults who are able to stay active and maintain their sense of connection with their community have been shown to experience fewer chronic illnesses, less unhappiness, dissatisfaction, isolation, anxiety, and depression. Physical activity not only improves and heals the body, but it also influences psychological well-being in later life. Despite the strength of this relationship, only a small percentage of older adults engage in regular exercise.
Clearly there are ethnic, social class, and gender differences in physical activity. As the number of older men and women continues to grow, it becomes increasingly important to address health related behaviors such as physical activity and to focus on life styles factors which affect older adults’ health and happiness. Drawing from our extensive cross-cultural studies we discuss the ways in which the social and physical environment can enhance well being and happiness for older men and women.
|Keywords:||Culture, Aging, Well Being, Fitness|
Professor, Department of Psychology, Coordinator of Gerontology, West Chester Univsersity of Pennsylvania, West Chester, PA, USA
Professor of Cultural Studies, Department of Kinesiology, West Chester Univsersity of Pennsylvania, West Chester, PA, USA
Student, Department of Psychology, West Chester University of Pennsylvania, West Chester, PA, USA