July 13, 2011

USA: Living to 100 - All in the Attitude

TRUMBULL, Connecticut / Trumbull Patch / Living / July 13, 2011

Successful aging may be "All in the Attitude"

By Jeniferlyn O'Neil

It’s all in the attitude, according to recent research from the University of Georgia. How we feel about ourselves and our ability to adapt to an accumulation of challenging life experiences may be as important – or more important – than health factors in determining if we survive to be 100 years old.

The research used data collected as part of the Georgia Centenarian Study, one of only two centenarian studies in the country, to measure psychological and social factors in addition to genetics and health of so-called expert survivors.

Research found that critical life events and personal history, along with how people adapt to stressful situations and cope with them, are crucial to explaining successful aging.

Photo Credit: Jeniferlyn O'Neil

“Understanding health in these terms has huge implications for quality of life,” said Leonard Poon, director of the Institute of Gerontology in the UGA College of Public Health and lead author of the study.

Personality also determined how well the centenarians reacted to life stress and change, and therefore whether they were as happy in their old age as they were when young. Healthy 100-year-olds had personalities described as open and conscientious. Neurotic personalities tended to be less healthy, the study found.

Other research drawing from the Georgia Centenarian Study compared physical function of the elderly living in the community with those living in retirement facilities and found that physical activity decreased by approximately one-third when community residents moved to retirement facilities.

A decrease in physical activity accelerates a decline in health, explained Elaine Cress, professor in the Institute of Gerontology and lead author of a related study.

“By understanding physical decline in functioning, caregivers can help maintain a high quality of life for the centenarian with appropriate support,” Cress said.

Companionship assistance can play an important role as you grow older, helping to maintain your independence and safety at home. CAREGiversSM can make a difference in the lives of older adults as they approach that milestone age of 100.

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