Multidomain trajectories of psychological functioning in old age: A longitudinal perspective on (uneven) successful aging

Jennifer Morack, Nilam Ram, Elizabeth B. Fauth, Denis Gerstorf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Life-span developmentalists have long been interested in the nature of and the contributing factors to successful aging. Using variable-oriented approaches, research has revealed critical insights into the intricacies of human development and successful aging. In the present study, we opted instead for a more subgroup-oriented approach and examined multiple-indicator information of late-life change at the person level. We applied latent profile analysis to 8-year longitudinal data pooled together across 4 Swedish studies of the oldest old (N = 1,008; Mage 81 years at Time 1; 61% women). Results revealed 4 psychosocial aging profiles with uneven patterns of successful (and less successful) aging characterized by distinct trajectories of change across indicators of depressive symptoms, social, and memory functions: a preserved system integrity group of participants who maintained functioning across very old age; an aging in isolation group with a persistent lack of social support, and 2 groups of people with average well-being and social functions but distinctive memory profiles. A compromised memory group was characterized by poor memory throughout late life, whereas participants in a memory failing group exhibited dramatic memory declines late in life. The subgroups were also differentiated by sociodemographic characteristics, functional limitations, and mortality hazards, which may have served as antecedents, correlates, or consequents of profile trajectories. We discuss the promises and challenges of using subgroup-oriented approaches in the study of successful aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2309-2324
Number of pages16
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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