The older you get the better you feel

By Siski Green , Thursday 13 December 2012

Health professionals urged to provide positive messages about ageing.
Happy couple cyclingThe research found that as people aged their wellbeing improved

With the current commercial emphasis on products that make us look and feel younger you’d be forgiven for thinking that ageing is a terrible thing, something to be avoided at all costs. However, according to new research getting older actually makes most people feel better, not worse.

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Stanford University, US, undertook 25-minute phone interviews with more than 1,000 people between the ages of 50 and 99; the average of study participants was 77. The same study participants were also given a comprehensive survey to fill out.

Together, the two forms of questioning covered data regarding chronic disease, disability, social engagement and self-assessment of health and wellbeing.

The results were surprising. Although they showed that study participants’ health and physical functioning did worsen over time - as well as cognitive function - participants overall had better mental functioning. (Mental functioning refers to your mental health – a person with depression, for example, would have impaired mental function.)

What’s more, individuals who showed more physical decline but who had ‘high resilience’ a term referring to a person’s ability to bounce back from negative events, showed similar self-ratings to those who were physically healthy but had low resilience.

The main issues that appeared to affect an older person’s sense of overall wellbeing were resilience and mental health. This was the same regardless of income, education and marriage.

These findings, say the researchers, show how important it is to provide positive messages about ageing, especially for health professionals.

“It was clear to us that, even in the midst of physical or cognitive decline, individuals in our study reported feeling that their wellbeing had improved with age,” says study author Dr Dilip Jeste.

If health professionals have an optimistic approach to care of the elderly, it could enhance successful ageing in older adults.

Physical health, they say, isn’t essential, or sufficient, for ageing successfully – resilience and mental health are just as important.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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