What Does the Well-Being of Older Adults Really Depend On?

What Does the Well-Being of Older Adults Really Depend On?
Laura Reguera

Written and verified by the psychologist Laura Reguera.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

In the last few decades, the world has gotten obsessed with our physical health. Scientists research illnesses and different treatments to heal them. Though we still have much to discover, these advances in science and medicine mean that the average life expectancy has increased markedly in the last century. 

However, in the midst of all this progress, we’ve forgotten something extremely important: the well-being of older adults. Given that we’re living longer, wouldn’t it be good for that extra time to be quality time? Read on to learn how to maximize mental health in this stage of life.

“Aging is still the only way we have found to live longer”

-Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve-

The role of self-acceptance and autonomy in the well-being of older adults

One fundamental factor in the well-being of older adults is self-acceptance. But what does that mean exactly? Self-acceptance is the knowledge and acceptance of your positive AND negative aspects. It’s important to have a positive attitude about yourself. Thinking of yourself in a positive light means better mental health.

Older adults with low self-acceptance tend to be unhappy with themselves. They want to be different than who they are. They also see their past in a negative light and ruminate on what could have been. But older adults who accept themselves for who they are, also accept their pasts.

An older adult close-up of a blue eye

Autonomy also plays an important role in the health and happiness of older adults. When we say autonomy, we mean the ability to act according to one’s values. With autonomy, seniors can resist social pressure and are less dependent in their decision-making.

“It is not the young man who is to be thought happy, but rather the old man who has lived the good life.”


Looking towards the future

Your objectives and goals are what give your life purpose. When you reach a certain age, looking for that certain something that will give meaning to your life serves as motivation to keep moving forward. It also helps you handle the obligations of life and the hard times it may send you.

When talking about life purpose, there’s another factor that influences the well-being of older adults: personal growth. This includes openness to new experiences and development of your positive traits. In other words, it is the ability to grow and keep evolving. We do that by challenging ourselves and setting new goals. 

This desire to grow means that you’re thinking about the future. In addition, it motivates you to cultivate new attitudes and abilities. Another positive consequence of this desire is that it keeps the abilities you already have from deteriorating. In fact, it’s motivation to refine your skills.

“When they tell me I’m too old to do something, I attempt it immediately.”

-Pablo Picasso-

Older adults using technology.

Relationships and feeling like you control your life

Lastly, there are a few other important factors at play in the well-being of older adults that we’ll mention. They are both related to a person’s environment. The first is having positive relationship with others and the second is having control over your environment.

Having stable, intimate, and satisfying relationships is crucial to a good social network — and all the good that this entails — in this phase of life. In fact, people who have a strong support system tend to be very empathetic. They also show concern for the well-being of others. They tend to trust people, and people see them as warm and open. All of this makes it easier to start and keep strong, long-lasting relationships.

Finally, older adults need to maintain some level of control over their surroundings. Having control over what your life is like matters. People who feel they have a positive influence on their environment will be more secure and happy than those who don’t.

Images courtesy of Nick Karvounis, Fabrizio Verrecchia and Roya Ann Miller.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.