Is It True That You Are Only as Old as You Think You Are?
Monday, January 6, 2020

You're only as old as you feel.

How does age perception affect health in senior citizens?

There are seniors in the world who continue to defy what we think of when we think of abilities and limitations for people over 65. John Gilmour of Australia needed a magnifying glass to read and wore thick, dark sunglasses to protect his eyes from the UV rays of the sun when he is outside. He was captured by the Japanese during World War II and returned malnourished and in poor health. In 2016, he ran as the only competitor in the 800 meters for the World Masters Athletic Championship in the 95-99 age group. John passed away at 99 years of age in 2018, but competed in Masters’ track meets for many years before his passing. He was both a senior citizen and a world-class athlete that entire time. 

Do you think his self-perception had anything to do with his success?

The University of Michigan ran a study on the impacts of self-perception and aging and found a direct correlation between negative self-image and poor health. Couples who tend to view their aging negatively tend to become less healthy and less mobile than couples who view their aging positively. The amazing thing is that another study found that as people aged, their explicit bias toward older people, how they vocalized how they felt about fellow older adults, improved as they aged. But their implicit bias, how they felt internally about fellow seniors, became more negative as they aged. So, based on this study, the old "you're only as old as you feel" adage seems pretty true. The problem is that we don't often do a very good job of making ourselves feel young!

So, how does this change? What can seniors do to improve the way they see themselves as they age, thus improving their physical well-being through positive self-perception? Here are some tips that seniors can put into practice:

Social interaction

Some seniors tend to "cocoon" as they age, avoiding social interaction. Not only does this have an impact on cognitive abilities and memory, but it also can be negative for self-perception. One of the best ways to see the value of seniors is to engage with other seniors. Seniors should find a group that has similar interests and seeing that other seniors are vibrant and enjoying life will help one see that there are activities to enjoy well into their advanced years.

Find ways to be independent

PACE programs are designed to help seniors stay independent and in their homes for as long as possible. One of the things that makes seniors feel like they are of lesser value is the reduction of independent activities. One should find programs that can help them leave the house without being dependent on family. They should take advantage of Dial-a-Ride services if they are unable to drive. Even a caregiver that can come in and assist a few hours a day can increase independence. The more independent one can remain, the better they will feel about themselves.

Get a hobby

Finding a hobby of interest can help seniors remember their value - whether it is crafting, building puzzles, singing in a choir at church or at a senior facility or something they've never considered before. Finding a new hobby can remind seniors that they have value and a purpose - two things that can change the way they view themselves and the world around them!

Mentor someone younger

It might be a family member. Maybe it's someone that is in the same trade that they used to work in. Maybe it's a newcomer to the facility or senior center. Lending expertise and insight can remind seniors just how valuable they are. Being around younger people can help keep one young as well. This is a reminder that they can impact a life, making them feel appreciated and valued. 

McGregor PACE is here to help! We've got plenty of activities to take part in and rides to and from all of our events. We are ready to help seniors stay as independent as possible, for as long as possible. Contact us today and let's find ways that we can help your senior loved one feel valued and young!


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