Embracing a Positive Attitude About Aging



Could the way you feel about aging actually affect the way you age?

Betty Friedan famously said, “Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” Recently, researchers identified that having positive self-perceptions about the benefits of getting older can create a self-fulfilling prophecy by helping someone stay mentally, physically, and psychologically younger.

Over the years, various studies have found a strong correlation between negative perceptions about aging and physical frailty. Additionally, researchers have identified that physical frailty in older age is associated with lower cognitive abilities, when compared to peers who are less frail in older age. Frailty appears to trigger a domino effect that often cascades into dementia.

A new study by researchers reports that having a positive attitude about aging may help prevent older adults from becoming frail, which in turn appears to keep their minds sharp. On the flip side, the researchers confirmed that having negative attitudes about aging affect both physical and cognitive health in later years. The researchers concluded, “Negative perceptions of aging may modify the association between frailty and frontal cognitive domains in older adults.”

A positive attitude about aging can also help seniors cope with stress, another study suggests.

“We found that people in the study who had more positive attitudes toward aging were more resilient in response to stress — meaning that there wasn’t a significant increase in negative emotions,” study author Jennifer Bellingtier, a Ph.D. student at North Carolina State University, said in a university news release.

“Meanwhile, study participants with more negative attitudes toward aging showed a sharp increase in negative emotional affect on stressful days,” she added.

“The way we feel about aging has very real consequences on our health and how we respond to difficult situations as we grow older.” says Shevaun Neupert, an associate psychology professor at NC State. “That affects our quality of life and may also have health ramifications. For example, more adverse responses to stress may have increased cardiovascular health risks.”


How do we keep a positive attitude as we age?

  • Write down a bothersome thought and then write down a positive thought to counteract it.  For example, “I messed up my entire life” and then “I haven’t messed up my entire life.  I made one bad decision and can fix it. And, I have made other good decisions.”


  • Practice gratitude.  Write down a few things every day that you are thankful for. No matter how big or small they are.  It can be as simple as a good cup of coffee, having a good book to read or seeing a friend.


  • Hang out with kindred spirits.  Some people just make you happy or lift you up when you are around them, while others may bring you down.  Reach out to those positive friends and avoid ones who are negative.


Deirdre Robertson, Ph.D. states “The way we think about, talk about and write about aging may have direct effects on health. Everyone will grow older and if negative attitudes towards aging are carried throughout life they can have a detrimental, measurable effect on mental, physical and cognitive health.”



Christopher Bergland – Psychology Today

Robert Preidt – CBS News

NC State University



Laura Kay House, MA, is the founder and owner of  Silver Connections, located in the Triangle area of North Carolina.  For a decade, Silver Connections has provided numerous local events, domestic and international travel, personal service, quality members and connections for age 55+, active and single adults.