Age is only a number. You’re only as old as you feel. These frequently repeated platitudes about aging may be cliché but scientific research is discovering that attitude really does matter when it comes to aging well. And passing on a positive and purpose driven approach to life, even in old age, may help this and future generations prevent dementia and age in better health.
A 2018 Yale University study found that older adults who hold positive beliefs about aging may reduce their risk for developing dementia. Keeping a sense of optimism in older age was found to help seniors combat stereotypes about aging and reduce their stress levels related to growing old, protecting them from the risk of dementia by as much as 49.8 per cent.
The Health and Retirement Study included 4,765 dementia-free diverse participants over the age of 60. Even those with a variant of the APOE gene, a strong risk factor for dementia, were found to significantly reduce their risk for developing dementia in old age by cultivating a positive outlook on aging and participating in activities from which they derive a sense of purpose and meaning. Positive age beliefs are modifiable and researchers believe campaigns combating negative attitudes towards aging and bolstering optimism could help seniors reaching older age prevent or delay the onset of dementia. And it’s never too late to start looking at the cup as half full; a change in perception about getting older can enrich the lives of even very old adults.
If you feel younger than your chronological age and relatively good about yourself and your body, keep it up! Not only will you probably live longer and in better health, your positive attitude about aging will be absorbed by your children, grandchildren and other family members, creating generations of healthy agers.
Read the full study in the journal Plos One here.