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Successful aging is an idea gaining increasing attention given the exponential growth in the older adult population. Criteria and definitions within multiple disciplines vary greatly in Western literature, with no consensus on its meaning. Moreover, sociocultural, economic and political differences between the Western view of successful aging and its use in China – with the world’s largest older adult population – add to the confusion. Similarities and differences in the meaning of successful aging in the United States and China are examined and the potential for a common definition that is useful to nursing in both countries is explored. Using the process of concept analysis, shared criteria for successful aging were: decreased or delayed incidence of disease and disability, life satisfaction, a sense of meaning and purpose in life, and the ability to cope effectively to achieve goals based on personal values and priorities. A comprehensive, multidimensional definition of successful aging for nursing, and a mid-range nursing theory of Theory of Successful Aging, were identified and may be useful to guide nursing research, practice and development of aging policy and programs.

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This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Journal of Transcultural Nursing, volume 26, issue 2, published early online May 19, 2014, following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at DOI: 10.1177/1043659614526257.