Although changes in body functioning and appearance signal the aging process to ourselves and others, studies give limited attention to the effect of bodily experiences of aging on age identity. Our study examines the effect on age identity of three categories of aging body reminders: everyday body problems, body repairs, and body aids.
Hierarchical linear models are run using five waves of the National Health and Aging Trends Study (2011-2015). Models predict the effect on age identity of change in the count of everyday body problems (e.g., pain), body repairs (i.e., surgeries and medications), and body aids (e.g., hearing aids).
Increases in everyday body problems and body repairs (in particular, medications) predict older identities, with the strongest average effect found for everyday body problems. These results are observed in models controlling on health, suggesting that body reminders exert independent effects.
Our study reveals a realm of aging experiences – i.e., bodily experiences – that influence age identity. Avenues for further research include examinations of other aging body reminders, as well as variation across individuals.