A new study has shown that people who believe that they are getting old age faster than those with a youthful mindset. Indeed, losing your memory and lessening your senses could very well become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
University of Toronto psychology professor and lead author of the study Alison Chasteen said, “People’s feelings about getting older influence our sensory and cognitive functions. The worse your view of aging, the worse you tend to feel about your own abilities, and the worse you perform.”
Previously, Chasteen focused her research on aging’s effect on performance, specifically, how it affects memory and hearing. Only recently has she started examining how an aging person feels about getting older. In the recent study, Chasteen wanted to put the three variables of aging, perception and performance together.
Chasteen studied 301 participants between the ages of 56 and 96. The participants were given a hearing test and a memory test. They were also asked to rate their level of concern in 15 possible scenarios that are commonly associated with aging. Additionally, they were asked how well they thought that they perform at tasks that might be difficult for seniors.
After conducting a complex statistical analysis, Chasteen discovered that participants who were the most fearful of aging and those who felt poorly about their abilities typically performed the worst on the tests of hearing and memory. It showed that those who were most aware of their aging were actually aging the fastest.
As for the participants who had little concern about their age and confidence in their abilities, they had remarkably higher scores. By keeping a youthful mindset and not worrying about becoming older, these participants seemingly delayed aging.
Chasteen said, “Individuals interpret their declining abilities in different ways and how they feel about them dictates whether or not they will try, by keeping busy and active, to maintain their function and stimulate mind and body.”
The study also showed that those who performed poorly on the memory test also performed poorly on the hearing test. This might indicate that hearing and memory could be correlated in some way.
Chasteen explained, “That could be part of the problem. When working with older adults reporting memory problems, we might want to check their hearing.”
But based on the study, the best way to avoid the effects of aging are to simply pretend that you’re not aging in the first place.