To determine how many 85-year-old persons in the population were aging successfully, according to the definition ‘optimal functioning and well-being’ (quantitative approach) and according to themselves (qualitative approach).
All inhabitants of Leiden, the Netherlands, who were born during the period 1 September 1912-31 August 1914 were asked, shortly after their 85th birthday, to participate in the study. The number of participants was 599 (87): 397 women and 202 men. During a home visit, they were assisted in completing questionnaires and, in a representative group of 27 participants, an in-depth interview was carried out about their experiences when aging and as an elderly person.
Of the 599 participants, 267 (45) had optimal scores for well-being, 79 (13) had optimal scores for functioning and 58 (10) had optimal scores for both successful aging criteria. Of the 27 interviewees, 22 (81) described themselves as satisfied with their life and as having aged successfully. Participants found optimum functioning to be important in being able to be old successfully, but considered having social contacts as the most important prerequisite for wellbeing. The ability to be able to adjust to limitations was essential to remain satisfied and thus successfully old.