Yale researchers checked on the mortality rates of more than 600 people who answered survey questions some 20 years earlier, when they were age 50 and older. The researchers discovered that those who’d agreed with such statements as “Things keep getting worse as I get older” and “As you get older, you are less useful” were more likely to die early than those who’d agreed with such statements as “I am as happy now as I was when I was younger.”
People with a more positive outlook on aging lived an average of 7.5 years longer than the negative bunch.
The more negative the vision of old age people held when they were younger, the more likely they were to later experience the very types of physical and mental decline they envisioned-turning into their own stereotypes.
Other studies have found that when researchers used word prompts like “wise” versus “senile” before older people engaged in specific tasks, that vocabulary alone led to enhancement or decline on a wide array of cognitive and behavioural outcomes, including memory performance, handwriting, and mathematical performance.
The moral? Think young. Any time you find yourself saying “I don’t do that,” write “that” down on a list-you’ve just found a great opportunity to learn something new and help protect your brain. Show yourself you can do it, and you’ll build your belief in your brain’s abilities, a key strategy for prolonging your life and avoiding cognitive decline.