Purpose: Active aging is a concept that lacks consensus. The WHO defines it as a holistic concept that encompasses the overall health, participation, and security of older adults. Fernández-Ballesteros and colleagues propose a similar concept but omit security and include mood and cognitive function. To date, researchers attempting to validate conceptual models of active aging have obtained mixed results. The goal of this study was to examine the validity of existing models of active aging with epidemiological data from Canada. Methods: The WHO model of active aging and the psychological model of active aging developed by Fernández-Ballesteros and colleagues were tested with confirmatory factor analysis. The data used included 799 community-dwelling older adults between 65 and 74 years old, recruited from the patient lists of family physicians in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec and Kingston, Ontario. Results: Neither model could be validated in the sample of Canadian older adults. Although a concept of healthy aging can be modeled adequately, social participation and security did not fit a latent factor model. A simple binary index indicated that 27% of older adults in the sample did not meet the active aging criteria proposed by the WHO. Implications: Our results suggest that active aging might represent a human rights policy orientation rather than an empirical measurement tool to guide research among older adult populations. Binary indexes of active aging may serve to highlight what remains to be improved about the health, participation, and security of growing populations of older adults.
The Gerontologist, First published online: September 8, 2015