Think Well, Age Well

November 18th, 2022 | Posted in Info

We all know that certain dietary and lifestyle habits can improve our chances of living well into old age. However, nothing is guaranteed when it comes to ageing and there are likely to be factors of which we are unaware. It turns out that something to add to your knowledge of the ageing process is that how you think about ageing impacts how you age!

Studies show that people who have the highest satisfaction with ageing are at a lower risk of dying from any cause over a 4 year period compared with those who are least satisfied. Ageing satisfaction is defined as ‘one’s beliefs about one’s own ageing’.

The Counterclockwise Study

Ellen Langer is a social psychologist in the US who has been studying the psychology of ageing for over 30 years. Her landmark Counterclockwise experiment in 1979 was a turning point in the psychology of ageing: Men in their 70s and 80s lived in a retrofitted space that was kitted out as if it were 1959. After a week of living in a world that looked like it did when they were younger the men felt younger, had improved hearing and memory, were more physically fit, and their arthritis symptoms had lessened.

Her findings suggest that breaking away from accepted notions of what it’s like to age and challenging ingrained behaviours associated with ageing by making subtle changes in our everyday lives can make a big difference. It seems that it is what we believe about our physical limitations that constrains us.

The Ageing Mindset

Another study into ageing satisfaction in US adults over 50 found that being in the highest quartile of life satisfaction was associated with improvements in health behaviours and better outcomes on many physical health indicators over the subsequent 4 years, including (1):

  • lower risk of pain
  • fewer limitations in physical functioning
  • lower mortality
  • fewer chronic conditions
  • higher self-rated health

They also had better health behaviours including:

  • lower risk of sleep problems
  • more frequent physical activity

They scored better on psychosocial indicators such as:

  • greater optimism
  • purpose in life
  • health mastery
  • financial mastery
  • increased likelihood of living with a spouse or partner
  • lower depression and fewer depressive symptoms such as hopelessness and loneliness over the 4-year follow-up period.
Future Policy

It seems that ageing satisfaction is associated with a range of health and well-being outcomes. These results suggest that ageing satisfaction is a valuable target for policies aiming to improve later life health and well-being (2). Already a number of inter-governmental organisations are encouraging countries to use well being indicators, such as life satisfaction, in addition to traditional economic indicators, when making policy decisions.

See blog posts on 7 Tips for Healthy Ageing and Healthy Ageing for more information on ageing well.


1. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(2):e2147797. Associations Between Satisfaction With Aging and Health and Well-being Outcomes Among Older US Adults. Nakamura JS et al.

2. Milbank Q. 2021 Mar;99(1):209-239. Life Satisfaction and Subsequent Physical, Behavioral, and Psychosocial Health in Older Adults. Kim ES et al.