Sense of Control Linked with Feeling Younger

It may be true that you are only as old as you feel but new research finds that older adults’ sense of well-being and feeling younger than their chronological age is tied in with how much control they have over their daily lives. 

According to a recent study out of North Carolina State University, published in the Journal of Gerontology:  Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, older adults who feel more in control reported feeling younger.  And while it’s normal for a sense of autonomy to fluctuate from day to day, feeling in control of your own life even with daily stresses or health issues can improve overall well-being and vitality. 

The study surveyed 116 older adults between the ages of 60 and 90 as well as 107 younger adults ranging in age from 18 to 36.   Study participants each filled out a daily survey for 8 days straight assessing their daily stresses, physical health, sense of control over their daily lives and how old they felt.  Younger adults reported feeling older as a result of poorer health or stress but self control had no bearing on their own perceptions of age.   Only older adults indicated that feelings of having control influenced how old they felt.

This study is important because many older adults find that as they become more dependent on others for their care, they must relinquish control over their lives.  By feeling that they have lost control, seniors may also feel older and less able to manage independently.  Caregivers and loved-ones can use this information to better understand the benefits of keeping older adults involved in making decisions and having as much control over their daily lives as possible.  

Including older adults in planning for their own future needs and care can help empower seniors and with a greater sense of control and purpose, they are more likely to remain active and feel younger.  When power is taken away from elderly adults, they feel older and may begin to lose the capacity to make decisions or take proactive care of their own health.  It’s a delicate balance for caregivers that can be difficult to achieve but good communication, planning and patience will help ensure elderly loved-ones are getting the care they need while protecting their desire for independence.  

Learn more about research on the psychology of aging by following this link to NC State University’s website.