The Secret to Feeling Younger

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You’re as young as you feel!

This cliché is meant to be uplifting to older people. But it really just begs the question: what, exactly, is it that makes a person feel young?

Having a sense of control over the events in one’s life is the answer that emerged from a 2019 study of 60- to 90-year-olds in the Journal of Gerontology. “[B]elieving that your daily efforts can result in desired outcomes” lines up nicely with what the researchers call “a younger subjective age.”

This makes a lot of sense. Feeling in control becomes important as we age, because it counteracts our growing vulnerabilities – we can’t move as fast, hear as well, or remember as much. Wresting back some control can rejuvenate older people, instill optimism, and improve memory and even longevity, various studies have found.

The researchers in the journal article compared two age groups’ answers to a series of questions about their feelings, stress levels, health, and other measures of well-being.  The respondents reported on these measures every day for eight days.

A youthful spirit kicks in for older people, the researchers concluded, when they “feel a greater sense of control than usual.”

Interestingly, a completely different phenomenon was found in young adults between the ages of 18 and 36.  They felt older on the days they were stressed or experienced health symptoms.

But the seniors just took stress and illness in stride and did not feel older. Perhaps, the researchers suggested, life experience “allow[s] them to better cope and adapt to daily events.”

Squared Away writer Kim Blanton invites you to follow us on Twitter @SquaredAwayBC. To stay current on our blog, please join our free email list. You’ll receive just one email each week – with links to the two new posts for that week – when you sign up here. This blog is supported by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

Gayle Dedelow

I had relatives who had serious illnesses but they lived into their 90’s and even 100’s. Apparently illness didn’t control their lives. Just knowing this, keeps me feeling younger!

Jenn Leach

Wow, this is really interesting. I can relate, being in the 18 to 36 age group. Whenever a health ailment comes about, I do really think about age. This really puts things into perspective.

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