A growing body of literature has shown the importance of views of aging in older
adulthood. Views of aging are broadly defined as beliefs a person has about old age, the aging
process, or their own aging (Wurm et al., 2017). This project explored how changes in health
influences changes in views of aging across older adulthood. Additionally, in two studies, this
project explored different categories of activities as potential mediators explaining the
association between changes in health and views of aging.
In Study 1, a nationally-representative sample of adults over the age of 50 (n =1923) was
used to assess how changes in physical, mental, and cognitive health were associated with
changes in views of aging, mediated by different categories of activities. In Study 2, a smaller
longitudinal sample of older adults over age 65 (n =150) was also used to explore the domainspecific nature of these constructs. Domain-specificity was assessed by analyzing how changes
in three types of health (physical, mental, cognitive) were associated with changes in views of
aging within those same domains (physical health, mental health, and cognitive health) and if
activities associated with those domains were the strongest mediators.
In Study 1, results found that changes in all types of health were associated with changes
in views of aging. More specifically, experiencing declines in all types of health was associated
with progressively more negative views of aging. Additionally, aligned with hypotheses, changes
in activity engagement was a small but significant mediator for these associations. In contrast,
Study 2 only found an association between changes in physical and mental health and views of
aging within those domains. There were limited mediation effects found in Study 2 and support
was not found for the domain-specific expectations of the mediation strengths.
In conclusion, this study found support for a linkage between changes in physical,
mental, and cognitive health and views of aging. Some support was also found in the larger,
nationally-representative sample that changes in activity engagement were a partial mediating
mechanism between changes in health and views of aging. There was mixed evidence as to the
strength of the mediation and the domain-specificity. These findings suggest changes in activity
engagement may be one important mechanism fueling the association between changes in health
and views of aging, but future research is needed to address limitations of this project and to
better understand the longitudinal within-person trajectory of views of aging.