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Older HIV+ and HIV− Adults Provide Similar Definitions of Successful Aging: A Mixed-Methods Examination


Background and objective

As HIV-infected (HIV+) individuals age, there is a need to understand successful aging (SA) from the patient perspective. This study compared SA definitions between HIV+ and HIV-uninfected (HIV-) older adults and then examined correlates of SA categories.

Research design and methods

Ninety-three HIV+ and 46 HIV- older (aged 50+) adults provided brief definitions of SA, which was examined using content analysis. We then compared the frequency of SA categories by serostatus and examined the correlates of SA categories within both groups.


Seven SA categories emerged: General Health, Cognitive Health & Ability, Physical/Biological Health & Ability, Social Relationships, Attitudes, Psychological, & Emotional Well-Being, Proactive & Engaged Lifestyle, and Independence. While no significant differences emerged, HIV- older adults were more likely to report General Health and the subcategory of Longevity/Survival, while HIV+ older adults were more likely to report subcategories of Enjoying Life & Fulfillment and Maintaining Balance. Few demographic correlates of SA categories emerged. Mood and HIV characteristics were not associated with SA categories. In both groups, those without neurocognitive impairment were significantly more likely to endorse General Health than those with neurocognitive impairment.

Discussion and implications

HIV+ and HIV- older individuals may generally perceive SA similarly, and their definitions parallel with existing models of SA. Yet, living with a chronic illness may cause HIV+ older adults to place greater value on quality of life and life satisfaction than physical health and chronological age. Observational and intervention studies may use similar approaches in evaluating and maximizing SA.

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