A new study, published in a Gerontological Society of America (GSA) periodical, finds that when older adults feel they have more control over their daily lives, regardless of stress or health issues, they feel younger. But, the researchers say that stress and health – not a sense of control – play a significant role in how younger adults feel.
“We recently found that there are things older adults can do to improve their feelings of control in their everyday lives,” said Shevaun Neupert, Ph.D., FGSA, a professor of psychology at North Carolina State University (NCSU) and co-author of a paper on the work in a statement. “Now this study highlights how those feelings of control influence perceptions of age. The more control older adults think they have, the younger they feel,” he says.
For this study, NCSU researchers had 116 older adults (ages 60 to 90), and 107 younger adults (ages 18 to 36) fill out a daily survey for eight consecutive days. The study participants were asked questions to assess their daily stresses, physical health, sense of control over their daily lives, and how old they felt.
Sense of Control Fluctuates
“Everyone’s sense of control fluctuates from day to day, or even over the course of a day — that’s normal,” said Neupert. “We found that when older adults felt more in control, they also felt younger. That was true even when accounting for stress and physical health,” he says.
According to Neupert, a sense of control had no bearing on self-perception of age for young adults. But stress and adverse changes in health did make young people feel older.
“This highlights the importance of having older adults retain some sense of autonomy,” added Neupert, noting that “It’s not just a nice thing to do, it actually affects their well-being.”
The research paper, “Feeling Young and in Control:: Daily Control Beliefs are associated with Younger Subjective Ages,” was published on March 15, 22016 in The Journal of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. The first author is Jennifer B Bellingtier, PhD, a former doctoral student at NCSU who is now a postdoctoral researcher at Friedrich Schiller University Jena. The work was done with the support from NCSU’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
The Journal of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed publication of GSA., the nation’s oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of GSA – and its over 5,500 members – is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public.
For details about this study, contact Dr. Shevaun Neupert at firstname.lastname@example.org.