Awareness of Age-Related Change (AARC-SF)
Contact: Markus Wettstein, Almar Kok
Measures on subjective views of aging refer to individuals’ perceptions, behavioral experiences, and subjective interpretations related to their process of growing older. Subjective views of aging have become a hot topic in the recent psychology of aging and beyond, because mounting evidence supports the protective role of positive subjective views of aging for well-being, health, cognitive functioning, and longevity as well as for lower health care costs (Debreczeni & Bailey, 2020; Levy et al., 2020; Westerhof et al., 2014, 2023).
Diehl and Wahl (2010) introduced the construct of “Awareness of Age-Related Change” (AARC), referring to “all those experiences that make a person aware that his or her behavior, level of performance, or ways of experiencing his or her life have changed as a consequence of having grown older (i.e., increased chronological age)” (p. 340). The introduction of AARC had a three-fold objective: First, to anchor individuals’ subjective experiences and interpretations of their aging experiences within the framework of lifespan developmental theory (Baltes et al., 2006). Second, to emphasize that adult development and aging entail both gain and loss perceptions and experiences. And, third, that individuals’ overall experience of subjective aging is based on specific behavioral experiences that they make in their daily lives. In particular, the concept of AARC draws on a large body of work showing that middle-aged and older adults have well-defined expectations and beliefs about age-related gains and losses across the adult lifespan (Heckhausen et al., 1989). Consequently, AARC relies on a two-dimensional approach that draws at its core on the distinction between perceived age-related gains versus perceived age-related losses (see also Diehl et al., 2014; Diehl et al., 2021).
Measurement instruments in LASA
At wave K (2021-2022) a validated short form of a questionnaire to assess AARC, the AARC-SF (Kaspar et al., 2019), consisting of 10 items (i.e., 5 gain-related, 5 loss-related) was included. It was translated from the German version to Dutch, and back-translated to German to check that its meaning had not changed.
The English version of the items (the domains gains and losses are indicated by + and -, respectively):
With my increasing age, I realize that … (questions not asked in this particular order)
+ … I pay more attention to my health
+ … I have more experience and knowledge to evaluate things and people
+ … I appreciate relationships and people much more
+ … I have a better sense of what is important to me
+ … I have more freedom to live my days the way I want
− … I have less energy
− … my mental capacity is declining
− … I feel more dependent on the help of others
− … I find it harder to motivate myself
− … I have to limit my activities
Response categories: 1 = Not at all; 2 = A little bit; 3 = Moderately; 4 = Quite a bit; 5 = Very much.
Scoring: Possible range for each domain: 5 (min) – 25 (max)
A higher score indicates:
- AARC-Gains and positive domain indicators: more perceived positive age-related changes
- AARC-Losses and negative domain indicators: more perceived negative age-related changes.
N.B. Calculate sum scores ONLY if all scale items are answered.
In the case of missing data, appropriate modelling of the response data should be employed (cf. Little, R. J. A., & Rubin, D. B. (2002). Statistical analysis with missing data (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. DOI: 10.1002/9781119013563).
The AARC-SF questionnaire can be considered as a complement to the Attitude toward Ageing questionnaire (ATA, link). Whereas the ATA measures attitudes, the AARC-SF measures subjective experiences. The ATA is included in LASAB (1992-1993) and in LASAK (2021-2022).
LASAK3XX (filename not determined yet) (medical interview: in Dutch)
LASAK3XX (K not available yet)
Availability of information per wave ¹
¹ More information about the LASA data collection waves is available here.
* 2B=baseline second cohort;
3B=baseline third cohort;
MB=migrants: baseline first cohort
Me=data collected in medical interview
Previous use in LASA
The AARC-SF questionnaire has not been used so far.
- Baltes, P. B., Lindenberger, U., & Staudinger, U. M. (2006). Life-span theory in developmental psychology. In W. Damon & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 1. Theoretical models of human development (6th ed., pp. 569-664). New York, NY: Wiley.
- Debreczeni, F. A., & Bailey, P. E. (2020). A systematic review and meta-analysis of subjective age and the association with cognition, subjective well-being, and depression, The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 76(3), 471-482. https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbaa069
- Diehl, M., Brothers, A.., & Wahl, H.-W. (2021). Self-perceptions and awareness of aging: Past, present, and future. In K. W. Schaie & S. L. Willis (Eds.), Handbook of the Psychology of Aging (9th ed., pp. 155-179). San Diego, CA: Academic Press. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-816094-7.00001-5
- Diehl, M., Wahl, H.-W., Barrett, A. E., Brothers, A. F., Miche, M., Montepare, J. M., Westerhof, G. J., & Wurm, S. (2014). Awareness of aging: Theoretical considerations on an emerging concept. Developmental Review, 34, 93-113. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dr.2014.01.001
- Diehl, M., & Wahl, H.-W. (2010). Awareness of age-related change: Examination of a (mostly) unexplored concept. The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 65, 340-350. https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbp110
- Heckhausen, J., Dixon, R. A., & Baltes, P. B. (1989). Gains and losses in development throughout adulthood as perceived by different adult age groups. Developmental Psychology, 25, 109-121. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-1622.214.171.124
- Kaspar, R., Gabrian, M., Brothers, A., Wahl, H.-W., & Diehl, M. (2019). Measuring awareness of age-related change: Development of a 10-item short form for use in large-scale surveys. The Gerontologist, 59, e130-e140. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnx213
- Levy, B. R., Slade, M. D., Chang, E.-S., Kannoth, S., & Wang, S.-Y. (2020). Ageism amplifies cost and prevalence of health conditions. The Gerontologist, 60(1), 174-181. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gny131
- Westerhof, G., Miche, M., Bothers, A., Barrett, A., Diehl, M., Montepare, J., Wahl, H.-W., & Wurm, S., (2014). The influence of subjective aging on health and longevity: A meta-analysis of longitudinal data. Psychology and Aging, 29, 793-802. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0038016
- Westerhof, G. J., Nehrkorn-Bayley, A., Tseng. H.-Y., Brothers, A., Siebert, J. S., Wurm, S., Wahl, H.-W., & Diehl, M. (2023). Assessing the impact of subjective aging on health-related outcomes: An updated meta-analysis of the evidence from longitudinal studies. Psychology and Aging. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/pag0000737
Date of last update: May 17, 2023