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Trajectories of ageing well among older Australians: a 16-year longitudinal study

  • COLETTE J. BROWNING (a1) (a2) (a3), JOANNE C. ENTICOTT (a1) (a4), SHANE A. THOMAS (a2) (a5) (a6) and HAL KENDIG (a3) (a5)

In this study we used individual differences concepts and analyses to examine whether older people achieve different ageing-well states universally or whether there are identifiable key groups that achieve them to different extents. The data used in the modelling were from a prospective 16-year longitudinal study of 1,000 older Australians. We examined predictors of trajectories for ageing well using self-rated health, psychological wellbeing and independence in daily living as joint indicators of ageing well in people aged over 65 years at baseline. We used group-trajectory modelling and multivariate regression to identify characteristics predicting ‘ageing well’. The results showed three distinct and sizeable ageing trajectory groups: (a) ‘stable-good ageing well’ (classified as ageing well in all longitudinal study waves; which was achieved by 30.2% of women and 28.0% of men); (b) ‘initially ageing well then deteriorating’ (50.5% women and 47.6% men); and (c) ‘stable-poor’ (not ageing well in any wave; 19.3% women and 24.4% men). Significant gender differences were found in membership in different ageing-well states. In the stable-poor groups there were 103/533 females which was significantly lower than 114/467 men (z-statistic = −2.6, p = 0.005); women had a ‘zero’ probability of progressing to a better ageing-well classification in later years, whilst males had a one-in-five probability of actually improving. Robust final state outcome predictors at baseline were lower age and fewer medical conditions for both genders; restful sleep and Australian-born for women; and good nutrition, decreased strain, non-smoker and good social support for men. These results support that ageing-well trajectories are influenced by modifiable factors. Findings will assist better targeting of health-promoting activities for older people.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Colette J. Browning, RDNS Institute, 31 Alma Road, St Kilda, VIC 3182, Australia E-mail:
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Ageing & Society
  • ISSN: 0144-686X
  • EISSN: 1469-1779
  • URL: /core/journals/ageing-and-society
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