“On days when you felt above your average control perceptions — you felt more controlled for you — you tended to feel younger,” says Jennifer Bellingtier, a postdoctoral psychology researcher at Friedrich Schiller University in Germany, of her findings, which she presented her research at the recent annual American Psychological Association (APA) convention (and which have not been published in a scientific journal).
Both environmental and internal changes could enhance an older person’s sense of control, Bellingtier says. A nursing home, for example, could allow residents to select their own food options and mealtimes, rather than mandating a set menu and dinnertime. On a personal level, even something as simple as thinking critically about all the daily activities a person controls — from the time she gets up to the books she decides to read — could help her feel empowered and better able to accomplish things.
The good news is that most elderly adults already tend to feel younger than they are, Bellingtier says. Among the older cohort in her new study, 91% of people reported feeling younger than their chronological age on at least one of the study days, while only 23% reported feeling older at any point during the study.