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April 3, 2019

Feel in Control; Feel Younger

When seniors grow to feel more in control of their lives, they feel younger, too.

The amount of confidence a person has in their ability to influence events and outcomes in their lives can add to their feelings of well-being. And in the case of senior citizens, it can also make them feel younger, a study finds.

Over 100 adults between 60 and 90 years old and 107 younger adults between 18 and 36 years old filled out a daily survey about stress in their lives, their physical health, their feelings of control over their daily lives and how old they felt each day. The surveys were completed over eight consecutive days.

It’s important for older adults to have a sense of autonomy. “It’s not just a nice thing to do, it actually affects their well being.”

Survey responses indicated that rather than stress or health concerns, feelings of control helped older adults feel younger. On the other hand, stress or health concerns, not feelings of control, made young adults feel older.

For most people, their subjective age, or how old they feel, is often younger than how old they really are. If people can identify ways they might be able to feel more in control or exercise more control in their daily lives, it might instill in them a sense of being younger. “We know from our past work that older adults who are able to maintain a positive mood tend to have more control or stronger perceptions of control on a particular day,” Shevaun Neupert, co-author on the study, told TheDoctor.

The results for younger adults were different. “I was a little surprised that control beliefs weren’t associated with how younger people perceive their age and felt about their age on a daily basis,” said Neupert. She added that feeling physically healthy helps people feel more in control, so perhaps they were less aware of the possibility of not being able to control basic circumstances of their lives.

“Things people can do in their lives, so they feel they are mastering their own environment, will have beneficial consequences about how they feel about their age,” said Neupert, a professor of psychology at North Carolina State University. So it’s important for older adults to have a sense of autonomy. “It’s not just a nice thing to do, it actually affects their well being.”

Neupert and her team are currently collecting data from a population of older adults with cognitive impairment.

The study is published in the Journals of the Gerontological Society of America: Psychology.

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