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Current Gerontology and Geriatrics Research
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 420637, 7 pages
Research Article

The Theory and Practice of Active Aging

Department of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, 1000 Welch Road, Suite 203, Palo Alto, CA 94304, USA

Received 17 April 2012; Revised 18 September 2012; Accepted 1 October 2012

Academic Editor: Alan Walker

Copyright © 2012 James F. Fries. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


“Active aging” connotes a radically nontraditional paradigm of aging which posits possible improvement in health despite increasing longevity. The new paradigm is based upon postponing functional declines more than mortality declines and compressing morbidity into a shorter period later in life. This paradigm (Compression of Morbidity) contrasts with the old, where increasing longevity inevitably leads to increasing morbidity. We have focused our research on controlled longitudinal studies of aging. The Runners and Community Controls study began at age 58 in 1984 and the Health Risk Cohorts study at age 70 in 1986. We noted that disability was postponed by 14 to 16 years in vigorous exercisers compared with controls and postponed by 10 years in low-risk cohorts compared with higher risk. Mortality was also postponed, but too few persons had died for valid comparison of mortality and morbidity. With the new data presented here, age at death at 30% mortality is postponed by 7 years in Runners and age at death at 50% (median) mortality by 3.3 years compared to controls. Postponement of disability is more than double that of mortality in both studies. These differences increase over time, occur in all subgroups, and persist after statistical adjustment.