This study was unique that it looked at the benefits to health from
a positive attitude; while earlier work has examined the health risks and declines linked to a negative outlook on life. We see, for the first time, that there might just be tangible health benefits to having a more positive outlook on aging.
To conduct the research, the team performed periodic surveys that included 589 subjects, 70 years old or older, on their views on getting older over a period of 11 years. The survey involved the subjects supplying the first five words or phrases that came to mind when they thought of older people. The responses were rated on a five-point scale as most positive or most negative. None of the subjects were suffering from any form of disability when the study began, but later, all of them reported at least a month when they needed help with everyday tasks like dressing, bathing or walking. Some disability was considered severe, other cases were mild.
People with positive visions of aging experienced health gains and better recovery as well as a reduction in health losses according to researcher Tara L. Steward, Ph.D. who is an assistant professor of psychology at Idaho State University. The findings were strongest for seniors who had the most severe forms of disability.
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You Are As Old As You Feel … Continued…
Naturally there are many things that impact how a patient recovers from a disability, and the study doesn’t prove that a positive attitude made the difference. Still our attitudes about aging do say a lot about how much we think our health is under our own control. If you see seniors as “spry” you may be more likely to do things in your own life that support this – eating well and exercising, keeping doctor appointments, taking medications and doing all you can to maintain your health. A more upbeat idea of what aging means may also impact how you handle stress, and may well put less stress on the heart.
And while there are losses associated with getting older, these years are also time to do things to improve your health or disability status, make choices that help you maintain hold of your independence. To live to please yourself. As the population ages, and baby boomers begin reaching their senior years (U.S. boomers account for 76 million people) attitudes about aging can, and likely will, be updated. New products and services are likely to be created as this generation is known to expect comfort, convenience and of course fun.
Going forward, more work will be done to see if people can reverse their attitudes about aging… focus on some of the positives of aging and reap the same benefits.
To your good health,