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Cross-cultural comparison between academic and lay views of healthy ageing: a literature review

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 August 2010

School for Public Health and Primary Care (CAPHRI), Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands. Department of Health Promotion, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands.
School for Public Health and Primary Care (CAPHRI), Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands. Department of Health Care and Nursing Science, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands.
School for Public Health and Primary Care (CAPHRI), Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands. Department of Health Promotion, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands. School for Nutrition, Toxicology and Metabolism (NUTRIM), Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands.
Address for correspondence: Li-Wen Hung, Department of Health Promotion, School for Public Health and Primary Care (CAPHRI), Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Science, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands E-mail: or


The aim of this study is to specify the concept of ‘healthy ageing’ from both western and non-western cultural perspectives, and to compare the views of academics and lay older people. Thirty-four published peer-reviewed full papers in English and Chinese (traditional characters) were identified using electronic database searches. The key components of their definitions of healthy ageing were extracted and categorised into 12 domains. The results show that, in general, lay definitions (as described in 11 studies) included more domains (independency, family, adaptation, financial security, personal growth, and spirituality) and more diversity in the healthy ageing concept than academic views (which tend to focus more on physical and mental health and social functioning in later life). Certain domains were valued differently across cultures. As shown in previous studies, the findings affirm that healthy ageing is a multi-dimensional and complex concept and that there are substantial differences in different cultures. Moreover, we found that there are pronounced variations in the conceptualisation of healthy ageing as between academic and older lay people. Generally, older lay people perceive healthy ageing more broadly than the maintenance of physical, mental and social functioning. We suggest that academic researchers should integrate the more holistic perspectives of older lay people and cultural diversity into the classical ‘physical–mental–social’ healthy ageing concept.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010

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