A new study led by associate professor Rebecca Ready in the department of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has found that older adults have different, more positive responses than young adults about feelings such as serenity, sadness and loneliness. Ready calls the findings “highly clinically significant” because the information could help caregivers, psychotherapists and workers at assisted living facilities, for example, better understand the emotions of older people in their care, which could lead to improved treatment and quality of interactions.
She says, “Older adults report feeling more serenity than younger persons. They also have a richer concept of what it means to feel serene than younger persons.” In a word grouping task, older adults associated more positive emotional terms with serene, such as cheerful, happy and joyful, than did younger people. The authors speculate that “this broader conception of serene” is associated with the fact that older adults report more calming positive emotions than younger people.
For the study, participants were asked to judge 70 emotion terms on whether the words had a positive or negative connotation. and if the words were activating or arousing.
Controlling for age group differences in these symptoms, Ready says, “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.”
As the percentage of older adults in the United States increases, Ready says, “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.”
University of Massachusetts at Amherst. “Older adults have their own perspectives on sadness, loneliness and serenity .” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 26 Feb. 2016. Web.
26 Feb. 2016. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/307141.php>