There also was a slight improvement in the rates of people going from a mild disability to no disability for those with positive age stereotypes.
A few factors could be at play here, Levy said. One could be that a positive attitude might help buffer against stress and lessen cardiovascular responses to challenges, which could reduce disability from heart issues.
She said it's also possible that people who believe older folks can still be strong may be more likely to go to rehabilitation, and to participate in vigorous exercise programs that may help improve their disability.
Another expert noted how society's view of aging has changed.
"Active life spans have increased for older people, even from just 20 years ago," said Dr. Gary Kennedy, director of the division of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center, in New York City. "That might help make people's perspectives more positive."
And, he added, positive people may "stay physically active, and that can-do attitude lets you attack your problems more aggressively, making you more likely to keep at it until you're better."
If you tend to be more negative naturally, Levy noted, "there are many positive examples out there. Try to think about ways of bolstering positive age stereotypes, and questioning negative stereotypes."
Although the study found an association between having a positive view of aging and better recovery from disability, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
Learn more about preventing falls, a common cause of disability, from the U.S. National Institutes of Health's Senior Health website.
SOURCES: Becca Levy, Ph.D., associate professor, epidemiology and psychology, Yale School of Public Healt
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