Israeli study: Feeling younger can help older people rehabilitate

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Subjective age the best predictor of rehabilitation outcomes, according to research from Bar-Ilan University

A new Israeli study shows that older people who feel younger show better rehabilitation results.

The researchers from Bar-Ilan University published their findings in the journal Gerontology.

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The study tracked 194 adult patients aged 73 to 84 undergoing rehabilitation from osteoporotic fractures or stroke in several rehabilitation facilities across Israel.

The patients who had younger subjective age at hospital admission showed more functional independence upon being discharged a month later.

"The effect of subjective age at admission on functional independence at discharge was confirmed," said Prof. Amit Shrira, from the Gerontology Program at the Department of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences.

"However, the reverse effect -- that of functional independence at admission on subjective age at discharge -- was not confirmed. This supports the conclusion that a younger age identity is an important psychological construct that contributes to a more successful rehabilitation," Shrira added.

Bar-Ilan University
Bar-Ilan UniversityProf. Amit Shrira

Subjective age was the strongest predictor of rehabilitation outcomes at admission, trumping the actual chronological age of the patient and multiple chronic conditions occurring simultaneously.

Considering the findings, the researchers recommend that clinicians evaluate the subjective age of the patient when tailoring rehabilitation programs.

"Those who feel younger can maintain their health and functioning for longer periods, and as the current study shows, can recuperate better from disability," Shrira said. 

"Therefore, by perceiving themselves to age successfully people may preserve a healthy and vigorous lifestyle."

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