Successful ageing: A study of the literature using citation network analysis

Research output: Contribution to journalReviewResearchpeer-review

BACKGROUND: Ageing is accompanied by an increased risk of disease and a loss of functioning on several bodily and mental domains and some argue that maintaining health and functioning is essential for a successful old age. Paradoxically, studies have shown that overall wellbeing follows a curvilinear pattern with the lowest point at middle age but increases thereafter up to very old age.

OBJECTIVE: To shed further light on this paradox, we reviewed the existing literature on how scholars define successful ageing and how they weigh the contribution of health and functioning to define success.

METHODS: We performed a novel, hypothesis-free and quantitative analysis of citation networks exploring the literature on successful ageing that exists in the Web of Science Core Collection Database using the CitNetExplorer software. Outcomes were visualized using timeline-based citation patterns. The clusters and sub-clusters of citation networks identified were starting points for in-depth qualitative analysis.

RESULTS: Within the literature from 1902 through 2015, two distinct citation networks were identified. The first cluster had 1146 publications and 3946 citation links. It focused on successful ageing from the perspective of older persons themselves. Analysis of the various sub-clusters emphasized the importance of coping strategies, psycho-social engagement, and cultural differences. The second cluster had 609 publications and 1682 citation links and viewed successful ageing based on the objective measurements as determined by researchers. Subsequent sub-clustering analysis pointed to different domains of functioning and various ways of assessment.

CONCLUSION: In the current literature two mutually exclusive concepts of successful ageing are circulating that depend on whether the individual himself or an outsider judges the situation. These different points of view help to explain the disability paradox, as successful ageing lies in the eyes of the beholder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-12
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016

ID: 162751843