Views on Aging Impact Memory and Happiness

We have written so much over the years about the links between mental and physical health. Sometimes the outcome of research can be both common sense and startling all at once. New research has found that people with positive views on aging are happier as they age. That reconfirms older studies and logic. However, it went one step further and found that they also have better memory.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) impacts 12 to 18 percent of people over the age of 60. It can be a precursor to Alzheimer’s or dementia. However, that isn’t always the case. People with MCI forget things like appointments and dates, lose keys or forget words. But, there’s no change in their personality.

Most people assume there is no recovery from MCI, but in fact half of those who have it do recover,” said Dr. Becca Levy, a public health and psychology professor at the Yale School of Public Health. “Little is known about why some recover while others don’t. That’s why we looked at positive age beliefs, to see if they would help provide an answer.”

A 12-year study with 1,716 seniors found that people with a positive view of aging were less likely to develop MCI and 30 percent more likely to recover from MCI if it developed.  

Many people view aging as a disease, and studies have found that it can make you age faster. It’s a self-fulfilling belief. This study found that a positive view of aging can “lower stress and better health behaviors, which can lead to better cognitive performance,” Dr. Levy said.

I think the hopeful message of this study is that those who had taken in more positive age beliefs from their society were significantly more likely to show cognitive recovery,” Dr. Levy said. “This suggests that efforts to reduce ageism on a societal level and to promote positive age beliefs on a societal and individual level could have cognitive benefits.”

If you are prone to thinking, “I am getting so old,” try tacking on, “and that’s good.” Aging is a natural part of life that is healthy! It’s part of the road. Aging in a healthy manner is fun and interesting. It doesn’t have to be about aches and pains when you take care of your body. Instead, getting older means knowing more than you did when you were young, having more wisdom and knowing what matters to you in your life!

Dr. Levy said, “We went into the study with a hypothesis. But the degree to which people recovered from MCI was stunning.”

Dr. Levy believed that even people who grew up with negative views of aging being pushed on them can change how they view getting older — at any age. It’s time to stop looking at aging as the enemy and start seeing it as something to enjoy and explore!  

Banner image: Andre Ouellet via Unsplash

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