How Perceptions On Aging Affect Us

People are often unaware that their ideas about aging have a profound effect on the health and well-being of adults as they age. As we move through life, we encounter positive and negative messaging or stereotypes that affect the way we see older adults and the processing of getting older.  These stereotypes even affect the way we view ourselves as aging adults.

One may see aging as a time of reaching a period of self-actualization; others may see it as a time of physiological and cognitive decline. A study by the Mather Lifeways Institute on Aging showed that negative perceptions of aging can have harmful effects  on our way of life. They discovered effects in six areas:


Adults with positive self-perceptions lived 7.5 years longer than those who develop a negative self-perceptions. Those having a positive mind set enter later life with a distinct health advantage.


Those who view aging as a time of personal improvement had a decreased rate of physical illness.

Functional Health

A positive perception may improve the ability to perform activities of daily living such as chores, personal grooming, and errands compared to those with negative perceptions.

Brain Health

Those with negative views on aging display increased risk factors for Alzheimer ’s disease. Risk factors that may increase an individual’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s can include environment, lifestyle as well as genetics and age.

Psychological Well-Being

Negative perceptions can lead to greater depressive symptoms. These can include, lack of interests in activities, low energy, decreased sleep and appetite, low energy.  Optimism provides a buffer against negative symptom and can lead to greater health and life satisfaction.

Healthy Behaviors:

Positive perceptions on aging help us engage in more preventative health behaviors. Older adults are more mobile and take control of their health.

The evidence shows that the perceptions create self-fulfilling prophecies. However, changing existing behaviors can be a challenging feat as it requires a change in one’s self-perceptions and societal stereotypes. As a society, we can change stereotypes aging those who are aging by:

  1. Including more older adults in the media
  2. Promoting intergenerational interaction
  3. Understanding the aging process
  4. Creating a positive perceptions on aging
  5. Correcting a stereotypes as they appear.

Displaying our biases on aging are usually subconscious; however, identifying ways to be more cognizant of these perceptions and progressive in promoting positive perceptions on aging  can help older adults live optimal and productive lives.

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