Latimer: Positive impressions of aging are self-fulfilling

Dr. Paul Latimer says how we think about age often dictates how we live our 'golden' years.

What do you think about getting older?

Are you looking forward to your senior years—to wisdom, self-realization and the chance to look with satisfaction at the life you have created?

Or are you dreading the years that make up the latter part of your life?

Are you fearful of a changing physical appearance, of medical concerns or a lack of purpose when you’ve finished your career?

According to research, the way we view old age will have quite an impact on the way we experience it.

This may not be entirely surprising to you.

In general, our beliefs shape us.

The things we hold true—whether about ourselves or the world around us—tend to be evident in our lives because they affect the way we interact with our environment.

Research out of Yale University has found that age stereotypes have an impact on the health of seniors.

When stereotypes are negative, individuals are less likely to take preventive medical steps and can even die sooner.

They are also more likely to have poor physical functioning and memory loss.

Individuals with a more positive outlook on aging experience better health with higher functioning and are even 44 per cent more likely to fully recover from a disability.

One study followed 660 adults for 23 years, between 1975 and 1998.

At the start of the study, participants answered questions to gain a sense of their age stereotypes.

Among this group, those with positive beliefs about aging lived an average of 7.5 years longer than those with negative beliefs.

Researchers believe individuals with positive age stereotypes have a stronger will to live, which may help them adapt to the changes of older age.

Similarly, those with negative stereotypes may have an increased cardiovascular response to stress.

Another study by the same group found those with positive beliefs about aging were more likely to eat well, exercise, limit alcohol consumption, stop smoking and visit their doctors regularly.

In a newer study, again from the Yale researchers, almost 600 adults aged 70 and older were followed from 1998 to 2008 to examine the impact of age stereotypes on recovery from disability.

Again, those with positive beliefs were much more likely to have good results and recover fully.

Beliefs and stereotypes about aging begin early in life and are reinforced by experiences and the way our society and families treat the elderly.

North American culture is typically not very good at celebrating or valuing age—and this growing body of research suggests we would do well to change in this area.

Paul Latimer is a psychiatrist and president of Okanagan Clinical Trials.

Just Posted

Downtown Kelowna parking shortage more perception that reality says city

Survey finds frequent parkers not as concerned about a shortage of spaces

West Kelowna restaurant makes Top 100 list

Quails Gate has made the cut

Proposed new fire hall for Glenmore in the wrong spot says study

A review of the KFD says a new fire hall should built closer to the Glenmore commercial centre

Kelowna council defers decision on homeless development

BC Housing is revisiting original plan after concerns from local businesses

3% tax hike proposed in West Kelowna

Proposed provisional budget tax hike in line with recent annual increases in the city

VIDEO: New series takes in-depth look at sexual harassment in B.C.

Black Press takes a hard look at sexual harassment in B.C.

2017 word of the year: Feminism

Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2017: ‘Feminism’

200 Russians to compete in Olympics as neutrals

The Russian Olympic Committee expects 200 to compete in South Korea

Researchers claim the ‘man flu’ does exist

Review of scientific studies suggests ‘man flu’ may be more intense: researcher

Trudeau appoints Supreme Court chief justice

Prime Minister Trudeau appoints Richard Wagner as Supreme Court chief justice

Liberal Hogg wins South Surrey-White Rock byelection over Conservative Findlay

B.C. riding to be represented by non-conservative for first time in decades

Rockets resume road trip with stop in Moose Jaw

Kelowna will be without Dube, Lind and Foote for Tuesday’s meeting with Warriors

Six-year-old boy needs $19,000 a month to treat rare form of arthritis

Mother of sick Sooke boy asks government to help fund treatments

Environmental groups slam NDP decision to continue with Site C

Construction industry, meanwhile, is cautiously optimistic about how the project will look

Most Read