Feeling young, even at an advanced age, improves medical rehabilitation outcomes, according to a new study in Gerontology. And having a “youthful mindset” helps prevent disability and illness in older adults.
Researchers followed 194 patients (ages 73–84) undergoing rehabilitation programs for osteoporotic fractures or stroke. Subjects were interviewed regularly during their stay on how young they felt, as well as about their overall feelings and experiences. Loss of independence was measured using the Functional Independence Measurement test (FIM).
Those who felt younger than their real age at the start of the trial displayed better functional independence at discharge. Not surprisingly, participants who identified as youthful were more optimistic about their recovery process.
“Older adults who felt younger than their chronological age at admission to the rehabilitation facility were more optimistic during rehabilitation and subsequently had better functioning at discharge from the rehabilitation facility,” say the study authors.
The findings indicate that subjective age predicts functional independence mediated by optimism, meaning that subjective age at admission predicts optimism during rehabilitation, and optimism predicts higher FIM scores at discharge. Although subjective age predicts FIM at admission, FIM at admission does not predict subjective at discharge. The findings might imply that subjective views of aging can be compared to a self-fulfilling prophecy. In this regard, it seems appropriate to end with the quote of W.I. Thomas: “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.”