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Theory of Successful Aging

Written By Admin on Wednesday, January 16, 2013 | 9:22 AM

Theory Of Successful Aging


Adequacy: The Flood’s Theory of Successful Aging (Flood, 2005) was developed to addresses a nursing theory for care of the older adult regarding to the lack of nursing theory that offers clearly delineated guidelines for care of aging. Flood’s(2002) unique definition of successful aging among other explanations includes mental, physical, and spiritual elements of the aging person and emphasizing the individual's self appraisal. She used existing knowledge derived deductively from the Roy adaptation model, one of the most widely accepted nursing theory model, and integrated these ideas with Tornstam's sociological theory of gerotranscendence and literature related to the concept of successful aging to comprise the foundation of the theory (Flood, 2005). The author adequately explains the specific nursing actions that constitute these attributes.

Clarity: The attributes of the theory and the model (Flood, 2005) clearly defines the major concepts relevant to successful aging. Flood provides examples of person with cancer that would exemplify the attribute although the physical health is not stated in the assumptions. In addition, there are no ambiguous statements, nor abstract or complex language employed. Nurses can readily understand the language used in the theory. Moreover, guidelines for interventions to help not only for nurses but caregivers to care for elders are provided for a completely understanding.

Consistency: Flood’s views of aging and definitions of successful aging addresses the definitions’ consistency
throughout her explanation. It have congruent use of terms, interpretations, principle and methods. The distinctly divergent terminology used among the description of the theory’s components and recommended interventions are not presented.

Logical Development: This theory perfectly follow a line of thought of previous works. Earlier study noted “A patient-centered definition will also be essential for future research in the field of successful aging, for it will allow determination of predictors truly relevant to persons who are aging.” (Phelan & Larson, 2002, p.1308). In addition, Flood (2005) points out that “none of these theories provides a thorough explanation or description of the mental, physical, and spiritual aspects of aging. Furthermore, most of these theories conceptualize successful aging objectively and do not take into account the older adult's perception of his or her aging.” (p. 35). Flood (2002) has presented antecedents and consequences of successful aging in her earlier study on concept analysis of successful aging. In this theory, the author integrated Roy's descriptions of environment, health, and nursing which allow for a logical context within Flood's (2002, 2005) assumptions are relevant. Environmental exchanges occur as part of the concepts in Flood's (2005) theory. Moreover, the scientific process of deductive reformulation lends credibility and sound logic to Flood’s theory of successful aging. These evidences show the logically development of the theory.

Level of Theory Development: The author attempts to present a theory of successful
aging as a nursing theory. The constructs within the coping processes that composed in this theory are measurable or observable output responses. Flood's (2005) theory describes exchanges of activity and characteristics that occur simultaneously and lead to successful aging. Flood offers this useful theory to guide nursing care for older adult. Although it is a combination of theories from other disciplines, the theory of gerotranscendence, it is broader in scope than the theories from which it was derived. Therefore, this theory does not address all of nursing, only aging advocacy. It is narrow in scope than grand theory, composed of fewer nursing concepts and propositions that measurable and testable, and provides applicable to practice which considered as a middle range theory.


Complexity: Five concepts are identified as key concepts in the theory of successful aging: environment, health, nursing, adaptation, and a synthesis. These concepts can be understood without lengthy descriptions and explanations. In this study, the author employed a variation of deductive reformulation, a process involving the derivation of existing knowledge from a non-nursing theory integrated with knowledge obtained deductively from a nursing conceptual model which would allow for a more logical presentation of how the components relate to each other. Moreover, the model is exhibited in this paper is an elucidate of the theory’s components structure and would present the interrelationship of its components. The theory is parsimonious in that “it is clear and
concise in explanations of the concepts” (Bredow, 2009, p. 55).

Discrimination: The scientific process of deductive reformulation lends credibility and sound logic to Flood’s theory of successful aging. Flood, founder who is an advanced practice registered nurse, used deductive reformulation to develop her theory of successful aging in nursing discipline. Without any other useful theory of aging to guide nursing care, Flood's (2005) theory offers promise for nursing. This theory provides a useful framework for interventions that target the mental, physical, and spiritual health of aging persons. It would be able to produce hypotheses that will lead to research results in older adult nursing research. However, there is no evidence of a nursing research using this theory.

Reality Convergence: The underlying assumptions ring throughout the theory. It is true that no one is born old. To be old means that one necessarily has a past history and a potential future that provide a context for characterizing the individual at a given point in time. The Flood’s theory assumptions reflect the real world as understood by the audience (Flood, 2005). It can be practically applied to the aging population in the context of healthcare provider.

Pragmatic: Flood (2005) claims that “interventions based on this theory are low-cost and can be taught to caregivers of elders. Examples of interventions are offering exercise groups at senior centers, educating about health-related topics such as diabetes and hypertension, enhancing creativity and gerotranscendence through reminiscence,
utilizing volunteer pastoral care services from local churches, and providing a quiet, peaceful location and time for self-reflection. Flood's theory offers a new and unique view of successful aging because it accounts for the mental, physical, and spiritual dimensions of the aging person”( p. 39). Therefore, the Flood’s theory of successful aging can be operationalized in a real-life elderly setting where nursing staff and caregiver intend to assist with adaptation and coping processes effort to the elderly.

Scope: The purpose of the Flood’s theory of successful theory is to develop a middle range nursing theory of successful aging that provides a framework for care of elderly. This nursing theory offers practical direction specifically intended for successful aging of older adults. Flood's (2005) theory describes exchanges of activity and characteristics that occur simultaneously and lead to successful aging. This theory is considerably narrow in scope because it can be applied to people of older age in nursing care.

Significance: This new theory is based on premise that aging successfully involves one's mind, body, and spirit. It introduces a nursing theory of successful aging that approaches capture of successful aging from a multidimensional perspective with consideration given to an individual's appraisal of his or her aging as being significantly relevant to the nursing discipline. Flood (2005) proposed theory will help to provide an increased number of research-based nursing interventions to apply to real world situations. The significant predictive relationship
between functional performance mechanisms and purpose in life was shown in this study (Flood, 2005). However, testing the propositions of Flood's (2005) theory is the next step in developing a nursing theory of successful aging. More research needs to be done to further develop and support this theory.

Utility: In Flood's (2005) theory, survival, growth, and mastery are achieved through the integration of the foundational coping processes.

Flood hypothesized that:

more creative people with lower levels of negative affectivity and greater degrees of personal control will have more effective adaptation of functional performance mechanisms through participation in health promoting activities and maintenance of physical mobility. Physical health reciprocates with intrapsychic factors. More creativity, less negative affectivity, and greater personal control contribute to deeper spirituality. Greater spiritual perspective and more religiosity can influence intrapsychic factors and effectiveness of adaptation of functional performance mechanisms. A satisfactory integration of the outputs of each foundational coping process must be present in order for the aging person to experience gerotranscendence, a critical step toward successful aging. Gerotranscendence leads to more meaning and purpose in life and greater life satisfaction - indicators of successful aging. Future studies are needed to assess whether this relationship holds true and to test the other theoretical propositions.” (p. 38)

This criterion is determined by the theory’s ability to generate researchable
hypotheses by researchers and practitioners of gerontology.


Bredow, T. S. (2009). Analysis, evaluation, and selection of a middle range nursing theory, In S. J. Peterson & T. S. Bredow (2009). Middle range theories: Application to nursing research (2nd ed., pp. 46-59). Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams, & Wilkins.

Dillaway, H., & Byrnes, M. (2009). Reconsidering successful aging: a call for renewed and expanded academic critiques and conceptualizations. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 28(6), 702-722. doi:10.1177/0733464809333882.

Fisher, B. J. (1992). Successful aging and life satisfaction: A pilot study for conceptual clarification. Journal of Aging Studies. 6(2), 191-202.

Flood, M. (2002). Successful aging: a concept analysis. Journal of Theory Construction & Testing, 6(2), 105-108. Retrieved from CINAHL database

Flood, M. (2005). A mid-range nursing theory of successful aging. Journal of Theory Construction & Testing, 9(2), 35-39.

Havighurst, R. J. (1961). Successful aging. The Gerontologist. 1(1), 8-13.

Phelan, E., & Larson, E. (2002). "Successful aging" -- where next?. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 50(7), 1306-1308. Retrieved from CINAHL database

Ryff, C. D. (1989). Successful aging: A developmental approach. The Gerontologist. 22(2), 209-214. Retrieved from CINAHL database

Tate, R., Loewen, B., Bayomi, D., & Payne, B. (2009). The consistency of definitions of successful aging provided by older men: the Manitoba Follow-up Study. Canadian Journal on Aging, 28(4), 315-322. doi:10.1017/S0714980809990225.
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