Meaning and purpose can be severely challenged in later life as society generally fails to perceive older people as having a meaningful role to play. New research has added to the growing body of evidence to suggest that having a strong sense of meaning and purpose plays a very significant part in wellbeing in later life. The study looked at the phenomenon of ‘generativity’ – the concern with giving to others or leaving a legacy. It tested whether greater self perceptions of generativity were linked to feelings of connectedness, self worth, and positive emotions. They compared those people who felt they had achieved their desired level of generativity in life with those who felt that they had failed to meet their expectations.
Higher ratings of perceived contributions to the welfare of others were associated with greater current and future propensity to experience positive emotions and interact with others and with life’s challenges in a positive way. It was also associated with greater self worth and life satisfaction. Contributing to the wellbeing of others is therefore indicated as an important dimension of ageing positively. Developing a sense of meaning and purpose in life is critical to health and wellbeing in later life.
For the full research paper click here
Death anxiety is a negative psychological reaction to the prospect of our mortality. It is related to human beings’ inability to accept mortality and is a common phenomenon. This study investigated whether a brief gratitude intervention could reduce death anxiety. Participants in the gratitude cohort were asked to recall and then write for about 20 minutes about gratitude-inducing events for which they felt “grateful, thankful, or appreciative.” Participants in the gratitude cohort reported lower death anxiety than those in the control groups. By re-examining life events with a thankful attitude, people may become less fearful of death due to a sense that life has been well-lived. Because gratitude can be induced using a very brief procedure, there are broad applications in clinical and health-care settings for the relief of death anxiety.
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This study investigated whether a brief gratitude induction could reduce death anxiety. 83 Chinese older adults (mean age = 62.7, SD = 7.13) were randomly assigned into one of three conditions: gratitude, hassle, and neutral, in which they wrote different types of life events before responding to measures of death anxiety and affect. Participants in the gratitude induction reported lower death anxiety than the hassle and the neutral condition, whereas no difference was observed for the latter two conditions. There was no experimental effect on positive affect, and a significant effect on negative affect but which did not favor the gratitude condition. By reexamining life events with a thankful attitude, people may become less fearful of death due to a sense that life has been well-lived. Because gratitude can be induced using a very brief procedure, there are broad applications in clinical and health-care settings for the relief of death anxiety.
To see the research https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5547341/
Optimism is a psychological attribute characterised as the general expectation that good things will happen, or the belief that the future will be favorable because one can control important outcomes. It is an attitude to life which can be significantly undermined by the challenges often experience in later life. Numerous studies have reported that more optimistic individuals are less likely to suffer from chronic diseases and die prematurely. The results of this new study go further and suggest that optimism is specifically related to 11 to 15% longer life spans, on average, and to greater odds of achieving “exceptional longevity,” that is, living to the age of 85 or beyond. These relations were independent of socioeconomic status, health conditions, depression, social integration, and health behaviors (e.g., smoking, diet, and alcohol use).
These findings indicate that optimism is an important psychosocial resource for people to pay attention to and develop in later life. This is especially important as ageist stereotypes can begin to be internalised as people age.
Access to the original research here (behind a paywall) https://www.pnas.org/content/116/37/18357