Aging is shaped by hopes and concerns, new study finds

“The way we think about who we’re going to be in old age is very predictive of what exactly we’ll be,” said Shelbie Turner, doctoral student at Oregon State University-OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences and co-author . on a study.

If you believe that you are capable of becoming the healthy, engaged person you want to be in old age, you are much more likely to experience this outcome.

Because the self-perception of aging is linked to so many major health outcomes, Turner and Karen Hooker, who also participated in the study, wanted to understand what influences these perceptions.

Their study specifically examined the influence of two factors: self-efficacy associated with possible selves, that is, a person’s perceived ability to become the person they want to be in the future; and optimism as a general personality trait.

The results showed that, as expected, higher optimism was associated with a more positive self-perception of aging. ‘Expected’ self-efficacy and ‘feared’ self-efficacy were also significantly associated with self-perceived aging, beyond optimism as a trait, according to the News website. Guard.

According to the researchers, the internalization of ageist stereotypes is a major factor in how people perceive their own aging. Examples of such stereotypes include the assumptions that older people are poor drivers, or suffer from memory problems, or are unable to participate in physical activity.

“Kids as young as four already have negative stereotypes of older people. So of course if you’re lucky enough to live to old age, they end up applying to you,” Hooker said. .

These stereotypes get reinforced every time an older person forgets something and jokes, “Another senior moment!” But researchers say these thought patterns can do real damage.

“People need to realize that some of the negative health consequences later in life might not be biological in origin. Mind and body are all intertwined. If you think these bad things are going to happen, over time this can erode people’s willpower or maybe even ultimately their ability to engage in those health behaviors that will keep them as healthy as possible, ”Hooker said.

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