Ageing as a mindset: A study protocol to rejuvenate older adults with a counterclockwise psychological intervention

Francesco Pagnini, Cesare Cavalera, Eleonora Volpato, Benedetta Comazzi, Francesco Vailati Riboni, Chiara Valota, Katherine Bercovitz, Enrico Molinari, Paolo Banfi, Deborah Phillips, Ellen Langer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Introduction: Although ageing is generally perceived as a biologically determined process, the literature increasingly points to the importance of psychological factors in the ageing process, specifically age-related stereotypes or cognitive mindsets. Such stereotypes reflect self-perceptions and others' perceptions about the ageing process and can have a strong influence on health and life satisfaction, specifically through self-fulfilling prophecy mechanisms. This study aimed to investigate whether changes in mindsets can change the ageing process. Methods and analysis: This study replicates in large part the original 1979 'Counterclockwise' experiment by Ellen Langer and will involve a group of older adults (aged 75+) taking part of a 1-week retreat outside of Milan, Italy. Participants will be instructed and helped to relive their younger selves, acting as i f they are living in the year 1989. The week-long residential programme is designed to prime this perception by incorporating a completely retrofitted physical environment, as well as providing opportunities to engage in social activities that would have been common in the late 1980s. This 'counterclockwise' intervention will be tested as a randomised control trial comprised of the experimental ('counterclockwise') group, an active control group (same activities, no time manipulation) and a no-treatment group. Ninety participants will be randomly allocated to one of these three conditions. Every participant will be assessed for medical, cognitive, psychological and age appearance at four time points at the time of recruitment, after the intervention (ie, after a week for the no-treatment group) and again after 6 and 12 months. Ethics and dissemination: The study has been approved by the Ethics Committees of the Department of Psychology of Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and Don Gnocchi Foundation. Results will be disseminated through peer-reviewed journals, scientific meetings and direct presentation to the general population.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere030411
JournalBMJ Open
Volume9
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2019

Keywords

  • ageing
  • counterclockwise (psychology)
  • health psychology
  • mind/body connection
  • rejuvenation
  • study protocol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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