(HealthDay News) – Older people with positive age stereotypes are significantly more likely to recover from disability than those with negative age stereotypes, according to a study published in the Nov. 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Becca R. Levy, PhD, from the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, CT, and colleagues used data from 598 community-living participants (age ≥70 years) in the Precipitating Events Project to examine whether age stereotypes impact recovery from disability. Participants, who were independent in four activities of daily living at baseline, were interviewed monthly for up to 129 months, and completed home-based assessments every 18 months. Participants experienced at least one month of activities of daily living-related disability during the follow-up period. Questions included beliefs about old people as a category (age stereotypes).

The researchers found that, compared with the negative age-stereotype group, the positive age-stereotype group had significantly elevated hazard ratios for recovery transitions: severe to none, 1.44; severe to mild, 1.23; and mild to none, 1.15. There was an advantage in the associated increase in absolute risk of recovery percentages for the positive age-stereotype group. The positive age-stereotype group also had a significantly slower rate of decline among activities of daily living, compared to the negative age-stereotype group.

“Older persons with positive age stereotypes were 44% more likely to fully recover from severe disability than those with negative age stereotypes,” the authors write. “Further research is needed to determine whether interventions to promote positive age stereotypes could extend independent living in later life.”

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