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J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2016 Mar;71 Suppl 1:S3-S12. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glv054.

Aging Well: Observations From the Women's Health Initiative Study.

Author information

  • 1Department of Biobehavioral Nursing, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • 2Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington.
  • 3Department of Family and Child Nursing, University of Washington, Seattle. The de Tornyay Endowed Professorship in Healthy Aging, de Tornyay Center for Healthy Aging, University of Washington School of Nursing, Seattle.
  • 4Department of Epidemiology, Famiy and Preventive Medicine, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla.
  • 5Department of Medicine and Epidemiology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
  • 6Departments of Medicine and Epidemiology, and Clinical and Translational Science, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  • 7Department of Nursing, University of Haifa, Israel.
  • 8RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, California.
  • 9Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis.
  • 10Division of Preventive Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Maryland.
  • 11Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester.
  • 12Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.
  • 13Department of Epidemiology, University of Iowa.



As the proportion of the population aged 80 and over accelerates, so does the value of understanding the processes of aging well. The purposes of this article are to: (a) review contemporary theoretical and conceptual perspectives on aging well, (b) describe indicators of aging well that reflect key concepts and perspectives as assessed in the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) and (c) characterize the status of aging among women aged 80 and older using data obtained from WHI participants at the WHI Extension 2 follow-up.


Data from the Lifestyle Questionnaire, which was administered from 2011 to 2012 during the WHI Follow-up Study (Extension 2), were analyzed to provide a profile of the WHI cohort with respect to aging well.


Data revealed substantial diversity in the cohort with respect to the various measures of aging well. Although many reported physical functioning levels consistent with disability, most rated their health as good or better. Most reported moderately high levels of resilience, self-control, and self-mastery but lower levels of environmental mastery. Finally, the cohort reported high levels of optimal aging as reflected by their high levels of emotional well-being and moderately high levels of life satisfaction and social support, but more modest levels of personal growth and purpose in life.


The wide range of some dimensions of aging well suggest that further examination of predictors of positive coping and resilience in the face of aging-related disability could identify opportunities to support and facilitate aging well among U.S. women.


Effective aging; Optimal aging; Optimism; Positive aging; Resilience; Successful aging; Well-being

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