Despite the claims of people selling books on ascension into being robots or diet fads, you are not going to live forever.

It used to be life was truly short and now we are in a period where life is much longer but after the age of 65 it is not better, it is instead a slow steady decline toward death.

The goal cannot be to try and live forever, nature has built in too many biological landmines to control that, but to live healthier until we do die. First, we'd have to agree on what this 'successful' aging would look like, without wellness psychobabble.

In the latest issue of The Gerontologist, gerontologists lay the groundwork for building consensus on the topic, though they can't yet reconcile that the answer may differ among academics and the general public, as well as across populations and demographic groups.

Successful aging has always been a topic but in one article the authors believe that a 1987 article by John W. Rowe, MD, and Robert L. Kahn, PhD, titled "Human Aging: Usual and Successful," helped the field evolve from one fixated on loss to one characterized by heterogeneity and the potential for growth. In their follow-up book they wrote that "successful aging is multidimensional, encompassing the avoidance of disease and disability, the maintenance of high physical and cognitive function, and sustained engagement in social and productive activities."

In the new issue, scholars argue whether or not Rowe and Kahn's analysis is still relevant - how could it not be? It is rather vague - and some suggest that the concept should be abandoned because it will invariably just be due to economic inequalities, along with self-esteem issues associated with labeling a person as an "unsuccessful ager" and another as not.

But rather than trying to codify it scientifically, many of the articles wander off into sociology - queer theory, transgender, minorities most impacted, etc., that is all how fine for riding the popular wave but it misses the point that gerontological 'theory' needs to address affect physical health before meandering into cultural, behavioral, and environmental constructs and jamming social engineering into medical policy. 

We know some things that are not adequately pursued by the field - some people age quite well despite living an unhealthy lifestyle and people worldwide have common views of successful aging. What muddies the water are gerontologists advocating their pet causes.

The Gerontologist Special Issue: Successful Aging Volume 55 Issue 1 February 2015

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