TUESDAY, Dec. 28 (HealthDay News) -- One positive aspect of
aging is that it appears that people really do grow wiser as they
grow older, researchers say.
Older people are better than younger people at seeing the
positive side of stressful situations and empathizing with the less
fortunate, according to the results of a study at the University of
The study findings support the theory that emotional
intelligence and cognitive (or thinking) skills can actually
improve as people enter their 60s, giving them an advantage in
personal relationships and in the workplace.
"Increasingly, it appears that the meaning of late life centers on social relationships and caring for and being cared for by others. Evolution seems to have tuned our nervous system in ways that are optimal for these kinds of interpersonal and compassionate activities as we age," study team leader and psychologist Robert Levenson said in a UC Berkeley news release.
He and his colleagues conducted a series of studies examining
how our emotional strategies and responses change as we age. One
study included 144 people in their 20s, 40s and 60s who watched
neutral, sad and disgusting film clips.
The older people were best at reinterpreting negative scenes in
positive ways by using a technique called positive reappraisal,
which is a coping mechanism that relies heavily on life experiences
and learned lessons.
The participants in their 20s and 40s were better at tuning out
and diverting attention away from unpleasant scenes, a technique
called detached reappraisal, the study authors noted.
The researchers concluded that "older adults may be better
served by staying socially engaged and using positive reappraisal
to deal with stressful challenging situations rather than
disconnecting from situations that offer opportunities to enhance
quality of life."
The study findings were published over the past year in the
Psychology and Aging.
Mental Health America offers 10 tips to improve
older adults' mental health.