229 Life Begins at 70!

Based on research by Susan Turk Charles Reynolds, C. A. and Gatz, M. (2001) written by the American Psychological Association, adapted by Juanita N. Baker, Ph.D.

Want to be reassured about how older adults feel a healthy degree of emotional fitness?

Dr. Susan Charles and colleagues found most people’s positive outlook extends into old age. A longitudinal study from 1971 to 1994 of 2500 people in four generations of families, asked participants “positive affect” (mood) questions, like, “During the past few weeks, did you ever feel excited or interested in something?” and “negative affect” questions, like “…did you feel so restless that you couldn’t sit still long?”

Results showed for all generations, negative affect decreased with age. As people got older, they got less negative. Positive affect stayed stable across time, with a small decrease for the oldest in the study. However, more outgoing older participants were less likely to drop in positive affect.

The research supports the “socio-emotional selectivity” theory, as people get older and become more aware of their limited time left in life, they direct their attention to more positive thoughts, activities and memories. The authors wrote, “With age, people place increasingly more value on meaningful goals, thus invest more resources in obtaining them.”

Think of yourself as ageless instead of aging! Initiate plans, live fully .



Charles, S. T., Reynolds, C. A. & Gatz, M. (2001). Age-Related Differences and Change in Positive and Negative Affect Over 23 Years. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80(1).

For more details see:


American Psychological Association, November 28, 2005


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