Awareness of aging: Theoretical considerations on an emerging concept

Manfred Diehl, Hans-Werner Wahl, Anne E. Barrett, Allyson F. Brothers, Martina Miche, Joann M. Montepare, Gerben Johan Westerhof, Susanne Wurm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

134 Citations (Scopus)


Humans are able to reflect on and interpret their own aging. Thus, as individuals grow older, calendar age may become increasingly a subjective variable. This theoretical paper proposes the concept of Awareness of Aging (AoA) as a superordinate construct that can serve an integrative function in developmental research on subjective aging. It is argued that the AoA construct can incorporate the theoretical components of other existing concepts by acknowledging that judgments of subjective aging tend to be made on an awareness continuum ranging from pre-conscious/implicit to conscious/explicit. We also argue that processes of AoA are inherently self-related processes and that AoA is a particular aspect of self-awareness that results in specific aging-related self-knowledge. Over time, aging individuals incorporate this self-knowledge into their self-concept and personal identity. We provide theoretical evidence showing that although all major theories of adult development and aging draw on phenomena related to AoA, the explicit incorporation of aging-related awareness processes has been missing. We also provide an overarching framework to illustrate in a heuristic way how AoA in combination and interaction with other influences affects developmental outcomes. Finally, we argue that attention to AoA-related processes has a number of societal and applied implications and thereby addresses issues of applied developmental psychology
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-113
JournalDevelopmental review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • IR-91824
  • METIS-305091


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