A study led by researchers at the University of Toronto shows that when older adults feel negatively about aging, they may lack confidence in their abilities to hear and remember things, and perform poorly at both.
“People’s feelings about getting older influence their sensory and cognitive functions,” said Alison Chasteen, professor in U of T’s Department of Psychology and lead author of the study published in Psychology and Aging. “Those feelings are often rooted in stereotypes about getting older and comments made by those around them that their hearing and memory are failing. So, we need to take a deeper and broader approach to understanding the factors that influence their daily lives.”
In the study, the researchers examined three variables – views on aging, self-perceptions of one’s abilities to hear and remember, and one’s actual performance of both functions – to uncover connections between them. It marks the first time all three factors were studied together using the same group of subjects.
A sample of 301 adults between the ages of 56 and 96 completed standard hearing tests to determine their ability to hear. These were followed by a series of recall tasks to test their memory. Subjects viewed a list of 15 words on a computer screen and listened to a different list of words on headphones. They then wrote down as many words as they could recall. A third test required them to listen to and repeat a list of five words, and then recall them after a five-minute delay. This provided an accurate measurement of each participant’s performance in both functions.
Participants then responded to a series of questions and statements relating to their own perceptions of their hearing and memory abilities. They were asked to agree or disagree with statements such as: “I am good at remembering names,” or “I can easily have a conversation on the telephone.
To assess their views on aging, they were asked to imagine 15 scenarios and rate their concerns about each based on age. In one, they were asked to imagine they were involved in a car accident in which it was unclear who was at fault, and indicate how worried they would be about being blamed for the accident because of their age. They were also asked how much they worried about being alone as they got older, losing their independence, becoming more forgetful, and finding contentment in their lives.
“Those who held negative views about getting older and believed they had challenges with their abilities to hear and remember things, also did poorly on the hearing and memory tests,” said Chasteen.
“That’s not to say all older adults who demonstrate poor capacities for hearing and memory have negative views of aging,” said Chasteen. “It’s not that negative views on aging cause poor performance in some functions, there is simply a strong correlation between the two when a negative view impacts an individual’s confidence in the ability to function.”
Chasteen said the perceptions older people have about their abilities to function and how they feel about aging must be considered when determining their cognitive and sensory health. She recommends educating older people about ways in which they can influence their aging experience, including providing them with training exercises to enhance their cognitive and physical performance, and disspelling stereotypes about aging.
“Knowing that changing how older adults feel about themselves could improve their abilities to hear and remember will enable the development of interventions to improve their quality of life.”
About this aging and hearing research
The study was coauthored by researchers at the University of Toronto, Baycrest Health Sciences, the James H.Quillen VA Medical Center, and Phonak AG.
Funding: The research was supported by a Catalyst Grant from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.
Source: Sean Bettam – University of Toronto Image Credit: The image is in the public domain Original Research:Abstract for “Do Negative Views of Aging Influence Memory and Auditory Performance Through Self-Perceived Abilities?” by Chasteen, Alison L.; Pichora-Fuller, M. Kathleen; Dupuis, Kate; Smith, Sherri; and Singh, Gurjit in Psychology and Aging. Published online October 19 2015 doi:10.1037/a0039723
Do Negative Views of Aging Influence Memory and Auditory Performance Through Self-Perceived Abilities?
Memory and hearing are critical domains that interact during older adults’ daily communication and social encounters. To develop a more comprehensive picture of how aging influences performance in these domains, the roles of social variables such as views of aging and self-perceived abilities need greater examination. The present study investigates the linkages between views of aging, self-perceived abilities, and performance within and across the domains of memory and hearing, connections that have never been examined together within the same sample of older adults. For both domains, 301 older adults completed measures of their views of aging, their self-perceived abilities and behavioral tests. Using structural equation modeling, we tested a hypothesized model in which older adults’ negative views of aging predicted their performance in the domains of memory and hearing through negatively affecting their self-perceived abilities in those domains. Although this model achieved adequate fit, an alternative model in which hearing performance predicted self-perceived hearing also was supported. Both models indicate that hearing influences memory with respect to both behavioral and self-perception measures and that negative views of aging influence self-perceptions in both domains. These results highlight the importance of views of aging and self-perceptions of abilities within and across these domains.
“Do Negative Views of Aging Influence Memory and Auditory Performance Through Self-Perceived Abilities?” by Chasteen, Alison L.; Pichora-Fuller, M. Kathleen; Dupuis, Kate; Smith, Sherri; and Singh, Gurjit in Psychology and Aging. Published online October 19 2015 doi:10.1037/a0039723