There’s a life-lengthening reason *not* to talk to your parents like they’re children


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After the zillionth time your not-so-tech-savvy mom asks you how to text emojis and post a photo on Instagram, it might be tempting to re-explain everything to her like she’s a child. Resist the urge, though: New research shows that infantilizing your parents will only contribute to hurting them long-term, especially when it comes to their lifespan.

Jennifer Bellingtier, PhD, surveyed two groups of adults in different age brackets every day for nine days, Time reports: 116 individuals between 60 and 90 years old, and 106 between 18 and 36. During each round of questioning, participants were simply asked how old they felt and also how in control they felt on the particular day. And according to Dr. Bellingtier’s unreleased results, the younger group tied subjective-age fluctuations (i.e., changes in how old a person feels) to health markers and stress levels (sounds about right!), while the older group’s changes were correlated to a sense of control.

The older adults tended to feel younger when they felt like they were in control. That sense of agency could contribute to improved mental and physical health down the line.

The older adults tended to feel younger when they felt like they were in control. So it stands to reason that a sense of personal agency could play a role in keeping up a tip-top level of mental and physical health up down the line; heck, past research has even shown a lower subjective age is correlated with a lower dementia risk. Unfortunately, control is often compromised when aging folks are talked to and treated like children, whether by way of explaining new technology or not providing enough choices—like what they actually want to eat for dinner—in assisted living facilities. “When you feel more controlled, you feel younger, and then you feel like you can accomplish more things. You feel like your actions matter,” Dr. Bellingtier says.

So the next time your mom or dad or aunt and or even best friend’s great-uncle comes to you in search of tech-savvy wisdom, share your knowledge in a way that’s not belittling—unintentionally or not. Allowing people to maintain sense of control over the years could be a major ingredient to the fountain-of-youth cocktail that’ll have them feeling like they’re 50 at age 100. Need proof? Just ask Tao Porchon-Lynch, the 100-year-old yogi.

Here’s how much control you have over your health, really. Or, find out how your unconscious body language could be sabotaging your dating life.

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