Understanding Older Adults’ Wellbeing from a Philosophical Perspective

Søren Harnow Klausen*

*Corresponding author for this work

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In spite of the large research interest in older adults’ wellbeing, a theory of older adult’s wellbeing as such is still lacking. I present the outline of such a theory, determining its scope and premises and suggesting avenues for its further development and related empirical research. I assume that wellbeing is a complex and dynamic phenomenon, depending on a subtle interplay between several different factors. Older adults tend to combine and value these factors differently from other age groups, and this should be reflected by a domain-specific wellbeing theory. I argue more specifically that dispositional properties are less important to older adults’ wellbeing; that vulnerability is a second-order disposition, and that this explains why it does not seem to impede wellbeing; that hedonic adaptation takes very different forms, not least in older adults, and that it should be assessed in a correspondingly differentiated manner; that cognition and cognitive impairment can play very different, both positive and negative, roles depending on the context; and that notions like flourishing need modification, and are actually modified in wellbeing assessments and self-assessments.

Translated title of the contributionAt forstå ældres velbefindende fra et filosofisk perpektiv
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Happiness Studies
Pages (from-to)2629–2648
Publication statusPublished - 30. Oct 2020


  • Adaptation
  • Cognition
  • Gerontology
  • Happiness/wellbeing
  • Mid-level theories of wellbeing
  • Older adults’ wellbeing
  • Philosophical theories of wellbeing


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