There are several psychological and social factors that have been linked to increased individual life expectancy and quality of life in older adults. While the majority of attention in the life extension and successful aging field has focused on physical factors such as exercise, diet, sleep, genetics and so on, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that psychological and sociological factors also have a significant influence on how well individuals age (Warnick, 1995).
Warnick (1995) believes that adjusting to the changes that accompaniment late adulthood and old age requires that an individual is able to be flexible and develop new coping skills to adapt to the changes that are common to this time in their lives. Aging research has demonstrated a positive correlation between someone's religious beliefs, social relationships, perceived health, self-efficiency, socioeconomic status, and coping skills among others to their ability to age more successfully. The term successful aging has been defined by three main components: "low probability of disease and disease related disability, high cognitive and physical functional capacity, and active engagement with life" (Rowe & Kahn, 1997).
Baltes and Baltes (1990) suggested that the term successful aging appears paradoxical, as aging traditionally brings to mind images of loss, decline, and ultimate death, whereas success is represented by achievement. However, the application of the term, successful aging, they argument forces a reexamination of the nature of old age as it currently exists. "An inclusive definition of successful aging requires a value based, systemic, and ecological perspective, considering both subjective and objective indicators within a cultural context" (Baltes & Baltes, 1990).
With medical advances and improvements in living conditions people can now expect to live longer lives than ever before. But, the prospect of merely living longer presents many problems. This fact has led researchers to investigate the psychological aspects of aging, with a goal of making the additional years more worth living. There is a great deal of information that leads us to be hopeful about the prospective quality of life in late adulthood and old age.
Religious beliefs, spirituality, and church participation have been the focus of numerous studies involving older adults. Various studies have associated religiousness with well-being, life satisfaction or happiness (VanNess & Larson, 2002). Although it will be necessary for future research to further clearly specify which dimensions of religious participation are beneficial to which outcomes (Levin & Chatters, 1998), it appears that certain aspects of religious participation enables older people to cope with and overcome emotional and physical problems more effectively, leading to a heightened sense of well being in late adulthood.
It is commonly known that suicide rates are higher among older people, and there is evidence that persons who engage in religious activities are more than four times less likely to commit suicide (Nisbet, Duberstein, Conwell, et al .: 2000). The inverse association between religiousness and suicide rate in elderly individuals may be due to the fact that religious beliefs help older people cope with or prevent depression …