For Older Adults, Sense of Control Tied to Feeling Younger

A study published in the Journals of Gerontology: Series B found older adults feel younger when they feel that they have more control over their daily lives, reports ScienceDaily. The researchers recruited 116 older adults and 107 younger adults to fill out a daily survey for eight consecutive days, to evaluate their daily stresses, physical health, sense of control over their daily lives, and how old they felt. “We found that when older adults felt more in control, they also felt younger,” says North Carolina State University Professor Shevaun Neupert. “That was true even when accounting for stress and physical health.” Still, an individual’s sense of control did not affect self-perceptions of age for young adults, while stress and health declines made young people feel older. “This highlights the importance of having older adults retain some sense of autonomy,” concludes Neupert. “It’s not just a nice thing to do, it actually affects their well-being.”

Moment of Reflection:
For those of us who work with seniors in care settings, these findings should be considered very carefully. If older adults “feel” younger when they have a sense of control over their lives or the sense of autonomy, then how can that help us, as recreationists, have a more positive impact on the lives and well being of our residents?

We know that by providing a variety of programs, we are giving our residents choices, and they are in control as to whether they participate. So right from the get-go, we are potentially having a positive impact on their sense of well-being.

But, can we do more? Can we take more time, and provide more opportunities, to ask questions about what they want to do? Have you offered a “free-for-all” program, where residents can come to a fully equipped room and they decide what they want to do? Do you have areas in your home where supplies are routinely made available to residents – without your control or direct programming plans and engagement?

In other words, can we add to our success as recreation programmers by NOT programming people?

We know there may be limits to how far we can go, but have you really tested those limits?

We hope this generates some thoughts and discussion among our fellow recreationists. What have you dome to promote independent thinking and self-directed engagement in your home environment? Let us know, and we will share it with others in our community.

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