Older Adults Are More Positive About Feelings – Study

Older adults have more positive responses about feelings such as serenity, sadness and loneliness than young adults, finds a new study.

The study conducted by researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the US shows that senior citizens above 60 have far more positive response about feels of sadness and loneliness
as compared to young adults.

The research team, headed by Rebecca Ready, an associate professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, found that senior citizens sense certain emotions as most positive and more active than younger people. Overall, senior persons are better equipped to handle the emotions than younger individuals.

“Older adults report feeling more serenity than younger persons. They also have a richer concept of what it means to feel serene than younger individuals,” said Ready.

For the study, Ready and her graduate student Gennarina Santorelli enrolled 32 senior adults (ages 60 to 92), and 111 younger adults (ages 18 to 32). As part of the study, the researcher duo gave study volunteers 70 emotion terms to judge on whether the terms had a positive or negative connotation, and if those terms were activating or arousing.

In a grouping task, the researchers asked the participants to group similar words together. Ready and colleagues found, both the older and younger persons’ many grouped words were similar but they noted systematic differences for emotion terms like sadness, loneliness and serenity.

They also found that older adults judged emotion terms as most positive and more active than their younger counterparts. Emotions overall may be more encouraging for older people, they found.

“We were surprised to find that younger adults associated more self-deprecating terms with feeling sad and lonely, such as being ashamed or disgusted with themselves, than older persons,” Ready added.

“We gained a deeper appreciation of some relatively unknown benefits of aging, such as increased positive emotions and less shame associated with feeling sad or lonely,” she added.

Ready and colleagues call their findings highly significant as the study outcome could help healthcare professionals including caregivers, psychotherapists and officials at assisted living facilities to deal with the older patients. They also believe the findings could lead to improved treatment and enhanced quality of interactions.

“It is imperative to determine how older adults define emotions differently than younger adults. These data ensure effective communication with older adults, accurate understanding of their emotion experiences, and appropriate access to psychological interventions,” Ready concluded.

Ready and colleagues reported their findings in the current online issue of Aging and Mental Health.

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