Sense of control makes older adults feel young

Washington: A new study reveals that when older adults have more control over their daily lives, regardless of stress or health concerns, they feel young. However, stress and health – not a sense of control – play a significant role in how old younger adults feel.

According to a professor of psychology at North Carolina State University and co-author of a paper on the work, Shevaun Neupert, the study has found that there are things older adults can do to improve their feelings of control in their everyday lives. Besides, “Now this study highlights how those feelings of control influence perceptions of age. The more control older adults think they have, the younger they feel,” he added.

For this study, published in Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, researchers had 116 older adults (ages 60-90) and 107 younger adults (ages 18-36) fill out a daily survey for eight consecutive days. Study participants were asked questions aimed at assessing their daily stresses, physical health, sense of control over their daily lives, and how old they felt.

“Everyone’s sense of control fluctuates from day to day, or even over the course of a day – that’s normal,” Neupert said. “We found that when older adults felt more in control, they also felt younger. That was true even when accounting for stress and physical health.”

However, an individual’s sense of control had no bearing on self-perceptions of age for young adults. But stress and adverse changes in health did make young people feel older.

“This highlights the importance of having older adults retain some sense of autonomy,” Neupert added. “It’s not just a nice thing to do, it actually affects their well-being.”


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