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50+: Live Better, Longer

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You’re Only as Old as You Feel

Views on Aging Affect Recovery continued...

They were 44% more likely to fully recover from severe disability than those with negative age stereotypes.

Also, older people with positive views on aging were more likely to progress from severe disability to mild disability or mild disability to no disability.

Older people with positive age stereotypes also had a slower rate of decline in their ability to perform daily activities as they got older.

Of course, many factors affect whether or to what extent a person recovers from disability. This study does not prove that a positive attitude about aging made a difference. But it showed the strongest relationship between age stereotypes and recovery was among those people with positive age stereotypes and the most severe type of disability.

Attitude and Aging

Positive views on aging may help people bounce back from disability and promote independent living in a variety of ways, the researchers say.

One of the biggest ways may be psychological. Stewart says a person’s attitudes about aging say a lot about how much they believe their health is under their own control.

For example, people who view seniors as spry rather than decrepit may be more likely to live a healthy lifestyle, keep up on their doctor appointments, and take their medicines as prescribed.

“Holding a negative stereotype about aging, like believing illness is caused by aging, would cause them to feel less in control and responsible for their health and lead to different sorts of strategies,” Stewart says.

Levy also says there may be a physiological side to it.

“People who have more positive age stereotypes tend to have the advantage in experiencing stress,” says Levy. “They tend to suffer from less cardiovascular stress.”

Researchers say the next step is to look at how people can upgrade their attitudes about aging.

“We need to emphasize some of the positive as we get older instead of focusing on the developmental losses that may happen with aging,” Stewart says.

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