For some, age is nothing but a number, for others it is a defining attribute. Those who consider themselves old and frail are more likely to disregard activities that could keep them healthier and active for longer. In contrast, those with a more positive outlook tend to remain more socially active and enjoy a better quality of life, even if they have equal or greater levels of weakness to those who consider themselves frail.
Researchers from Exeter University conducted a study interviewing 29 people aged between 66 and 98 with varying levels of health. Some participants lived in care homes and others lived independently.
The interview questions asked participants about their experience of ageing to help determine how their attitude affected them physically. Most of the people interviewed considered themselves to be in good condition (including those in the worst physical shape) and one commented that those who think they are old and frail will act like they’re old and frail.
Within the study, two people did consider themselves frail. In these participants researchers identified a ‘cycle of decline’ in which their outlook had led to a withdrawal from social and physical activity, even though they were in fact physically stronger than some of the other participants.
Past studies have already revealed that elderly people who have a rich social life and are physically active remain healthier and happier for longer in old age.
Leader of the study and PhD student Krystal Warmoth presented her findings at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society saying:
“It is almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. A person’s beliefs about their self could lead to a loss of interest in participating in social and physical activities, poor health, stigmatisation, and reduced quality of life. You are as old as you feel and your own views of yourself, or taking on this identity of being frail, is not what you should be doing.”
If you are keen to change your outlook on your life and health (whatever your age) speaking to a life coach could help. For more information, please see our Health page.
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