Positive expectations regarding aging linked to more new friends in later life

Josephine A. Menkin, Theodore F. Robles, Tara L. Gruenewald, Elizabeth K. Tanner, Teresa E. Seeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objectives: Negative perceptions of aging can be self-fulfilling prophecies, predicting worse cognitive and physical outcomes. Although older adults are portrayed as either lonely curmudgeons or perfect grandparents, little research addresses how perceptions of aging relate to social outcomes. We considered whether more positive expectations about aging encourage older adults to maintain or bolster their social network connections and support. Method: This study examined baseline, 12-, and 24-month questionnaire data from the Baltimore Experience Corps Trial, a longitudinal randomized volunteer intervention for adults aged 60 years and older. The associations between expectations regarding aging and different types of social support were tested using negative binomial and multiple regression models controlling for relevant covariates such as baseline levels of perceived support availability. Results: Participants with more positive expectations at baseline made more new friends 2 years later and had greater overall perceived support availability 12 months later. Notably, only participants with at least average perceived support availability at baseline showed an association between expectations and later support availability. Discussion: These results are the first to link overall expectations regarding aging to the social domain and suggest that the influence of perceptions of aging is not limited to physical or cognitive function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)771-781
Number of pages11
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Volume72
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017

Keywords

  • Beliefs
  • Friendship
  • Social networks
  • Social psychology of aging
  • Social support
  • Stereotypes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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