What does a sense of having control over your life have to do with successful aging?
When we enter this later phase of life, we experience certain losses that can’t really be avoided. However, having a sense of control over our lives is a very important factor in how successfully we age.
An important study by Harvard researchers, conducted in a nursing home, is a case in point. One group of residents took charge of their daily living activities, including dressing, eating, personal hygiene and maintaining their own environments. A second group had all these functions taken care of for them by staff.
Results indicated that those in the first group were more alert, active and happier. 18 months later, 15% of that group had died, compared to 30% of the second group.
You see, the opportunity to make choices increases our sense of personal power and control. While folks who are older deserve our love, attention and support, the more we take over the business of living for them, the more they will come to need our help. The less they will be able to do for themselves, the faster their decline into helplessness.
Watch for a well-intentioned but misguided desire to be helpful that tempts you to take over for your friends and relatives who are older. Instead, support their efforts to take care of themselves and you will be empowering them to live longer, happier lives.