Reducing Negative Stereotypes Associated with Aging & Promoting Positive Self Perceptions
This article was reviewed by Kiara B OTR/L.
The aging population is growing rapidly due to longer life spans.
As this population continuously grows, it is necessary to emphasize the significance of healthy aging and active participation of these individuals. As therapists working with the older adult population, it is common to encounter older adults aged 65+ who live more sedentary lifestyles compared to younger populations. It is also common to encounter negative stereotypes regarding aging, which may lead to negative self-perceptions of health. As therapists, we must ask ourselves, can we reduce these negative stereotypes? We must focus our attention on encouraging physical activity among these older adults within their homes, and promote positive self-perceptions of health.
A study was conducted over a course of 2.5 years assessing 309 community-dwelling older adults aged 65-85 years with two or more chronic conditions, who provided self perceptions of aging, physical activity, and self-rated health (Beyer, Wolff, Warner, Schüz, Wurm, 2015). The findings suggested having more positive self-perceptions of aging were related to improved self-rated health (Beyer, et al., 2015). It also suggested a positive correlation between positive self-perceptions of aging and physical activity (Beyer, et al., 2015). To put simply, an older adult who is active and spends time in the kitchen cooking her favorite meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner is more likely to rate her health higher than an older adult who spends most of her time in bed for each meal. Older adults who believe health issues are inevitable in aging will most likely demonstrate less motivation and effort in living healthier, more active lifestyles (Beyer, et al., 2015). We must prevent these negative beliefs from becoming a reality.
As older age is commonly associated with increasing health issues, it is crucial as therapists to disregard these negative stereotypes and find ways in which to motivate clients, as well as promote positive self-perceptions. We can do so by discovering ways in which patients can continue participating in activities they love, and consequently help clients overlook the stereotype that they can no longer live life in the way they desire. If more older adults ignore the common belief that declining health in older age is inevitable, it may be possible to promote healthier lifestyles, including physical activity, regardless of the clients’ ages (Beyer, et al., 2015).
Beyer, A., Wolff, J.K., Warner, L.M., Schüz, B., & Wurm, S. (2015) The role of physical activity in the relationship between self-perceptions of ageing and self-rated health in older adults, Psychology & Health, 30:6, 671-685, DOI: 10.1080/08870446.2015.1014370.