The Journal of the World Psychiatric Association – World Psychiatry features an interesting article by Jeste and colleagues in Vol 9 Number 2 which is freely available here. The authors ask some questions which get straight to the point – what does it mean to age successfully. The answer is less than straightforward as the reader might anticipate. In some senses it is very similar to the question ‘How does a person live successfully?’ an answer which has preoccupied people from the dawn of history and which has shaped countless social structures. The authors search the literature and find a large group of independent definitions of successful ageing. This causes problems for the creation of questionnaires as without common ground its difficult to see which questionnaires would gain wider approval. Nevertheless they do find a number of studies using questionnaires to investigate this question. When the definition includes some measure of physical disability there is a discrepancy between ‘objective’ and self-reported measures of successful aging further supporting the notion that successful aging is to a large extent dependent on the individual’s perceptions. The authors then turn their attention to the factors that predict self-reported successful aging and these make for interesting reading. Here the researchers identified significant associations with education, physical activity participation and attitude towards ageing. The authors then focus on factors which might minimise the risk of physical illness with ageing and draw some genetic associations. They also examine the issue of wisdom. Indeed they write a little about their own work on developing an understanding of the neurobiology of wisdom. They leave the readers with a reflection on how psychiatry might adapt to the challenges raised in their paper
‘Psychiatry including geriatric psychiatry, should broaden its scope to include enhancement of lifestyles, social functioning and other aspects of recovery‘
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