What If Age is Nothing But a Mind-Set?

The New York Times reports on an old study about age, and whether it may merely be a state of mind:

Langer did not try to replicate the study — mostly because it was so complicated and expensive; every time she thought about trying it again, she talked herself out of it. Then in 2010, the BBC broadcast a recreation, which Langer consulted on, called “The Young Ones,” with six aging former celebrities as guinea pigs.

The stars were squired via period cars to a country house meticulously retrofitted to 1975, right down to the kitschy wall art. They emerged after a week as apparently rejuvenated as Langer’s septuagenarians in New Hampshire, showing marked improvement on the test measures. One, who had rolled up in a wheelchair, walked out with a cane. Another, who couldn’t even put his socks on unassisted at the start, hosted the final evening’s dinner party, gliding around with purpose and vim. The others walked taller and indeed seemed to look younger. They had been pulled out of mothballs and made to feel important again, and perhaps, Langer later mused, that rekindling of their egos was central to the reclamation of their bodies.

The program, which was shown in four parts and nominated for a Bafta Award (a British Emmy), brought new attention to Langer’s work. Jeffrey Rediger, a psychiatrist and the medical and clinical director of Harvard’s McLean Hospital, was invited by a friend of Langer’s to watch it with some colleagues last year. Rediger was aware of Langer’s original New Hampshire study, but the made-for-TV version brought its tantalizing implications to life.

“She’s one of the people at Harvard who really gets it,” Rediger told me. “That health and illness are much more rooted in our minds and in our hearts and how we experience ourselves in the world than our models even begin to understand.”

Read the rest here.

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