Perceptions of Aging and their Impact on Older Adults’ Health Outcomes
Abstract Background: Research suggests older adults’ aging selfperceptions and others’ stereotypes influence aging significantly. However, the association of self-perceptions and stereotypes with health outcomes remains unclear. Purpose: The authors’ primary purpose is to provide a review and commentary describing perceptions of aging and their associations with health outcomes and other determinants of health. In doing so, the authors will consider potential interventions to improve perceptions of the aging process. Methods: To streamline the focus of this paper and determine relevant work in this area, the authors conducted a targeted review of literature to describe various aging perspectives. A search of online databases identified relevant publications. Search terms were tailored to select results for inclusion. Results: Older adults’ aging self-perceptions and others’ stereotypes have not been reported extensively. No consensus exists to define these constructs, although selected measurement scales are available. Thus assessing self-perceptions, stereotypes, and their impact is challenging. Research suggests seniors place as much importance on psychosocial aspects of aging as on disease/disability, although various factors impact their views and outcomes. Generally, purpose in life, social involvement, perceived control, and resilience appear beneficial. However, interventions to enhance positive perspectives or minimize negative stereotyping are limited. Instead, initiatives tend to focus simply on assessing individuals’ viewpoints or describing the outcomes of negative stereotypes, but without proven solutions. Conclusions: While current research highlights the associations of aging self-perceptions and stereotypes with older adults’ health outcomes and quality of life, many questions remain. Limited studies examine these views and their impacts with the purpose of developing initiatives to support positive attitudes, leaving a research gap. Future research and interventions should emphasize improved perspectives of aging, perhaps through productive engagement and community involvement (purpose), social participation (improved connections), resilience, and healthy lifestyle behaviors as potential approaches.