Engagement With Life
According to Rowe and Kahn, there are two main aspects of active engagement (which they define as a component of successful aging): social support and productive activity. Or, as Freud put it, ‘‘love and work.’’
Social support involves giving and receiving positive information, trust, care, love, esteem, network membership, and mutual obligation. Two kinds of support are important for successful aging: socioemotional support (e.g., affection, liking, love, esteem) and instrumental support (e.g., assistance or care when one is ill, help with household chores, transportation, loans, gifts). However, it is best if the support is mutual: receiving support should be balanced by giving support, insofar as is possible.
The importance of productive activity was demonstrated in longitudinal studies of aging at Duke University (Palmore and Jeffers), which found that work satisfaction (defined broadly as any kind of useful activity) was one of the best predictors of longevity. Rowe and Kahn found three main factors that promote productive activity: health, social support, and self-efficacy. All three of these factors interact and reinforce each other. As was indicated previously, social support seems to help overcome stress and promote healthful lifestyles.