Recent research has shown a spotlight on ramifications on psychological well-being related to the way we conceive of our own futures, in addition to our awareness and understanding of the aging process. Specifically, one study examined different facets of human perception in order to better understand the association among perceptions about aging, future time orientation, and well-being over the lifespan.
To do this, the authors sampled across the age spectrum with special emphasis on the perceptions of middle-aged and older adults in the United States and Germany over a period of two and half years. Using a longitudinal sample of 537 community-dwelling adults, researchers surveyed to see which if any change in these areas would be apparent after a few years.
What they found was that the individuals with more positive views of their age-related losses at the start of the study were more likely to experience a negative impact on their future time perspective two and half years later. Future time perspective encompasses the extent to which a person views the future in either a positive or negative light; these researchers were testing the premise that future time perspective is an essential motivational drive for human goal setting. Additionally, researchers predicted that the more expansive one’s future time perspective was, the more it would be associated with greater awareness of age-related gains (versus losses).
Results were in line with predictions. Those participants with a more expansive future time perspective showed more perceptions of age-related gains and fewer losses, as well as more positive psychological well-being.
In order to continue to advance scientific understanding regarding the fundamental role time plays in well-being into older age, research such as this is extremely important. In years to come, the study of human development into later life with respect to the variability in future time perspective and its correlates will continue to provide useful information for ways to age well.
Brothers A, Bagrian M, Wahl HA, et al. Future time perspective and awareness of age-related change: Examining their role in predicting psychological well-being. Psychology & Aging (2016); 31(6): 605–617.