We study the health trajectories of the population aged over 60, comparing between one European and two Latin American countries (Spain, Chile and Costa Rica) which have similar longevity patterns. Our focus is on functional limitation and mortality risks, considering differences by gender, education and social participation. Data come from national panel surveys (EPS, CRELES, SHARE). Multistate modelling is used to estimate transition probabilities between two health states: healthy to unhealthy, unhealthy to healthy as well as the transition to death from healthy or unhealthy states, to estimate the duration of stay in a specific state (computing healthy and unhealthy life expectancies) and the effect of the selected covariates. Results show that older Costa Ricans have the smallest gender gap in life expectancy but women have a lower healthy life expectancy compared to those in Chile and Spain. Participation in social activities leads to higher healthy life expectancy among the elderly in Costa Rica and Spain, whilst there were no relevant educational differences observed in longevity in the analysed countries. To conclude: despite the different patterns observed in health transitions and survival across the three countries, social participation is associated with greater health and longevity among people of old age, with little effect coming from educational attainment. Public policies should therefore be aimed at reducing unhealthy life years and dependency at advanced ages by promoting more engagement in social activities, especially among vulnerable groups who are more likely to experience impairment from a younger age.