The self-regulation of healthy aging: Goal-related processes in three domains

Marie Hennecke, Veronika Brandstätter, Gabriele Oettingen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


As people age, they experience typical age-graded challenges and opportunities, for example, their own retirement, changes in their social networks, or a decline in health condition. The extent to which people successfully process, respond to, and act on these challenges and opportunities is highly important for their health, at the core of which the WHO sees the possibility of "doing what one has reason to value."In this article, we posit that individuals can play an active role in determining whether they can, in response to these age-graded influences, continue doing what they have reason to value, and that they can do so by deploying the self-regulatory processes of goal setting (including reengagement in new goals after disengaging from a previous goal), goal pursuit, and goal disengagement. We discuss the role of these self-regulatory processes in three important goal domains: work/retirement, interpersonal relationships, and health. Across these domains, we consider typical challenges and opportunities including the increased availability of daily time in old age, the long past that lies behind older adults, and their limited future time perspective. Finally, we derive open research questions that may be studied to better understand how the very old may self-regulate their response to age-graded influences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S125-S134
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue numberSuppl 2
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021


  • Aging
  • Development
  • Goal pursuit
  • Health
  • Self-regulation
  • Self-Control/psychology
  • Healthy Aging/physiology
  • Humans
  • Psychology, Developmental
  • Behavioral Research
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Retirement/psychology
  • Aged
  • Achievement
  • Goals
  • Health Status
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Adaptation, Psychological

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science


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