19 Jul Aging Viewpoint, Positive or Negative?
Do you hold positive or negative views about aging? Is it better to be realistic about physical losses, or approach aging with an optimistic viewpoint? Here’s what a group of researchers from Germany, Israel, and Tasmania found.
Negative self-perceptions of aging
It seems common sense that the state of your health would affect your perceptions of aging – and it does – but a bigger impact is that your perceptions of aging affect your health, physically and mentally!
If you hold negative views of aging, any physical losses or serious health events are viewed as a result ofgetting old more than a result of illness. Diseases are viewed as less curable, less preventable, and less controllable.
This results in more passive coping, perceiving more symptoms, less healthy behaviours, and an increased likelihood of dying.
Positive self-perceptions of aging
On the other hand, physical losses may not loom large in your mind because your focus is on living life as best you can. You probably
- think of yourself as a developing person with a specific set of goals, and you direct resources to achieving your goals
- pursue your goals by putting time and effort into them on a regular basis
- use other means to compensate for losses so that you can continue to work towards your original goals.
Using these strategies helps a person adapt to health declines, and stay healthier for longer.
Optimistic or realistic?
If you happen to hold negative views about aging, being an optimistic sort of person helps to buffer the health impacts of a negative view. For example, you are more likely to have better physical functioning and fewer depressive symptoms.
You might think that a negative viewpoint about health declines associated with growing old would better prepare you for what might lie ahead. Well, yes, sort of, if you are also optimistic.
What the researchers found is that a useful approach to age well is to consider both gains and losses at the same time: realistic rather than pessimistic or optimistic.
“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” – William Arthur Ward