A study led by researchers at the University of Toronto reveals that when older adults feel negatively about aging, they may lack confidence in their abilities to hear and remember things, and perform poorly at both.
According to Alison Chasteen, PhD, professor in the University of Toronto Department of Psychology, people’s feelings about getting older influence their sensory and cognitive functions. “Those feelings are often rooted in stereotypes about getting older and comments made by those around them that their hearing and memory are failing,” said Chasteen. “We need to take a deeper and broader approach to understanding the factors that influence their daily lives.”
Chasteen was the lead author of the study article, published in a December 2015 edition of Psychology and Aging, which explained how three variables were examined—views on aging, self-perceptions of one’s abilities to hear and remember, and one’s actual performance of both functions—to uncover connections between them. The study reportedly marks the first time all three factors were examined together using the same group of subjects.
For the study, a sample of 301 adults between the ages of 56 and 96 completed standard hearing tests to determine their ability to hear. These tests were followed by a series of recall tasks to test their memory. The test series provided an accurate measurement of each participant’s performance in both functions. Participants also responded to a series of questions and statements relating to their own perceptions of their hearing and memory abilities. They were asked to agree or disagree with statements such as “I am good at remembering names.”
To assess their views on aging, participants were asked to imagine 15 scenarios and rate their concerns about each scenario based on age. Those who held negative views about getting older and believed they had challenges with their abilities to hear and remember things, also did poorly on the hearing and memory tests.
“That’s not to say all older adults who demonstrate poor capacities for hearing and memory have negative views of aging,” said Chasteen. “It’s not that negative views on aging cause poor performance in some functions, there is simply a strong correlation between the two when a negative view impacts an individual’s confidence in the ability to function.”
The authors report that perceptions older people have about their abilities to function and how they feel about aging must be considered when determining their cognitive and sensory health. Their recommendations include educating older people about ways in which they can influence their aging experience, and providing them with training exercises to enhance their cognitive and physical performance.
“Knowing that changing how older adults feel about themselves could improve their abilities to hear and remember will enable the development of interventions to improve their quality of life,” Chasteen says.
One of the co-authors on the paper was Gurjit Singh, PhD, a past contributor to The Hearing Review.
Source: University of Toronto
Image credits: University of Toronto; © Ruslan Huzau | Dreamstime.com