02:03am Tuesday 19 November 2019

Unlocking the secrets to living a happier life in older age

    • Older people (65 to 84 years) is expected to more than double

    • Adults 85 and over is expected to increase by more than four times, from 0.4 million people today to 1.8 million in 2050

What is intriguing is that people cope with ageing and the higher likelihood of illness during ageing in very different ways. Compared to some other cultures, ageing is often viewed quite negatively in Australia. Further, older adults in very similar circumstances, appear to cope differently: some view ageing and the occurrence of illness as decline and unhappiness, whereas others hold a positive attitude that helps them to not only cope with change, but to thrive in later life.

The movie released on March 22 this year, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, exemplifies this by portraying the diverse ways of coping among a group of older people who undertake a journey to India in their pursuit of happiness and meaning.

So what are the secrets to living a happier life as one ages? A group of researchers at the University of Wollongong is investigating healthy ageing by examining age and illness beliefs in people over 55 years of age.

The study is looking at a range of psychological aspects of a person that helps them to cope with the ageing process and illness, enabling them to live more fulfilled and happy lives as they get older. The study will look at a broad range of factors that may be linked to more positive beliefs, including social support, coping styles, personality, religiosity, and mood.

One hundred and fifty volunteers, mainly from the Illawarra region, have already agreed to take part in the project but PhD psychology candidate Louise Turner is keen to hear from more people who are willing to participate from throughout NSW. People must be aged over 55 and have no, or negligible, cognitive impairment.

Ms Turner said establishing how beliefs about age and illness work are important because it will contribute to our understanding about what non-medical factors help people to reduce stress and anxiety, and to achieve a higher quality of life.

“It will also improve the ways in which we manage the psychological health care needs of older people,” she said.

She said the information collected would likely be used to inform future treatment approaches in the health care needs of older adults.

Participation in Ms Turner’s study involves completing either a paper or online survey which is provided by her. Survey completion, which can be done from a volunteer’s home, takes about 45 minutes.

All completed surveys go into a draw for a chance to win one of five Coles-Myer vouchers valued at $100.

For more information about this study or to register your interest, contact Louise Turner on 4221 4164; or email louise_turner@uow.edu.au

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