You necessarily lose some control over your life as you age. Nursing homes often facilitate this process, unfortunately, by taking care of everything for their residents. However, research shows that making a few simple changes can drastically improve the quality of life and the risk of mortality for nursing home residents.
A classic study set out to determine whether giving nursing home patients more control over their lives would improve health outcomes. Half the participants were given a messages emphasizing the number of choices they had in the nursing home. They were told that they could rearrange their furniture as they like, choose movies they wanted to watch, etc. Each was also given the option to take care of a plant of their choice (all chose to take care of one). The status quo group, in contrast, heard a message emphasizing the staff’s responsibility for making them happy. They were also given a plant, but were told that the staff would water and care for the plants. The researchers found that the sense of control group was happier, more active, more alert. They also visited with other patients and other people from outside the nursing home more often. Nurses rated 93% of participants in the sense of control group as improved, but just 21% in the status quo group. Most strikingly, a follow-up study by the same researchers found that the sense of control group had a 50% lower mortality rate over the next 18 months!
Make sure that you have a healthy sense of control over your own life. Furthermore, if you know someone in a nursing home, take steps to give them more choice/ control over their lives. Better yet, email this study to administrators at the nursing home.
Langer, Ellen J., and Judith Rodin. “The effects of choice and enhanced personal responsibility for the aged: a field experiment in an institutional setting.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 34.2 (1976): 191-198.
Rodin, Judith, and Ellen J. Langer. “Long-term effects of a control-relevant intervention with the institutionalized aged.” Journal of personality and social psychology 35.12 (1977): 897.