Research reported on August 9 at the 2018 convention of the American Psychological Association suggests that subjective age—how old we feel at a given time—could be shaped by the level of control we believe to have over our own lives.
“Research suggests that a younger subjective age, or when people feel younger than their chronological age, is associated with a variety of positive outcomes in older individuals, including better memory performance, health and longevity,” stated presenter Jennifer Bellingtier, PhD, of Friedrich Schiller University in Germany. “Our research suggests that subjective age changes on a daily basis and older adults feel significantly younger on days when they have a greater sense of control.”
The study included 116 participants between the ages 60 to 90 years and 106 participants aged 18 to 36. Surveys completed daily for nine days queried the subjects concerning the level of control they believed they had over the activities they participated in each day and how old they felt.
Dr Bellingtier, along with colleague Shevaun Neupert, PhD, of North Carolina State University, observed an association between subjective age and level of control perceived by older, but not younger participants.
“Shaping the daily environment in ways that allow older adults to exercise more control could be a helpful strategy for maintaining a youthful spirit and overall well-being,” Dr Bellingtier commented. “For example, some interventions could be formal, such as a regular meeting with a therapist to discuss ways to take control in situations where individuals can directly influence events, and how to respond to situations that they cannot control. Smartphone apps could be developed to deliver daily messages with suggestions for ways to enhance control that day and improve a person’s overall feeling of control.”