Emotional intelligence of older people

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Emotional intelligence of older people

We must understand the emotional intelligence of older people as a key to health, as the engine to generate a more vital third age.

Written and verified by the psychologist GetPersonalGrowth.

Last update: 15 November 2021

Recent studies reveal that, on average, the emotional intelligence of older people is quite high. They value social relationships and take care of them. They know how to appreciate the present, regulate their emotions to adapt to each moment and evaluate the context that surrounds them and what happens to them in a more positive way to enjoy life and have a more relaxed and optimistic approach towards their reality.



Many people are likely to be surprised by the results of this work conducted by the University of Texas and the University of California, Berkeley. Today we still have a somewhat negative view towards older people and the aging process. We associate birthday with physical decay, lower cognitive abilities and, irremediably, with unhappiness, low motivation and social and emotional isolation. In other words, to losses, at least for the greater part. Still, scientists tell us that the emotional intelligence of older people is a trait that is almost to be envied.

“With twilight and sunset, day and life get shorter. Now you can dedicate yourself to whatever you have wanted during the day or for a lifetime. "

-Dahlke-

It is clear that achieve the autumn of life for good health is a very important plus to face this phase: the fewer limitations, the better and more varied the possibilities. It is therefore evident that personality and circumstances mediate on taking one approach rather than another to life. Studies show us that the ability to manage emotions, as well as that of knowing one's own and other people's feelings, improves (on average) significantly from the age of 60.



This does not mean that emotional intelligence improves for everyone as the years go by. Rather it means that experience enables most people to manage emotional processes well and, in turn, directs them to give priority to an essential element: social relationships.

The emotional intelligence of older people

Being elderly is not synonymous with loneliness, dissatisfaction and decline. It hasn't been for over a decade now. Life expectancy already exceeds the threshold of 80 years, and therefore we could say that 60 years are a second youth and 70 years a peaceful maturity. The elders of our times are, by and large, incredibly active.

They participate in infinite dynamics of their community, they travel, have fun with friends, take care of their grandchildren and are that constant and almost indispensable support for their children. At the same time, and although many of these people have more than one physical ailment and have even suffered the emptiness of some loss, much of it exhibits extraordinary emotional abilities.

How do they do it? Body deterioration is under our eyes, as are health and even economic and social problems. Therefore, how do older people maintain such a good level of affective and emotional well-being? From the Journal of Gerontology of the University of Oxford they reveal the key aspects.

Theories that would explain the increase in emotional intelligence in old age

Let's proceed with some hypotheses that, when reconciled, could explain the feeling of satisfaction and fullness that we see reflected in many older people:


  • The emotional intelligence of older people could be explained by the theory of socio-emotional selectivity. There comes a time when you become aware that the years of life are running out. This idea, this personal and existential reality, leads us to dedicate ourselves above all to emotionally rewarding experiences. We don't care about future rewards; we want to enjoy the well-being of the here and now, because long-term plans make less and less sense.

The increase in emotional intelligence of older people can be explained by the theory of socio-emotional selectivity and the theory of dynamic integration.


  • The theory of dynamic integration says that as we age we realize that our physical and cognitive abilities are reducing. We are not as agile as before, we live conditioned by that hip pain, diabetes, arthritis ... In view of some realities that cannot be controlled, the elderly person opts to favor positive emotions as the key to balance and happiness . Ultimately, emotions are under our control.
  • The emotional intelligence of older people is also orchestrated by their experience. The years have taught them to better control certain emotional situations. They understand their processes, regulate themselves better and in turn know how to get in tune with the needs of others.
  • Another interesting factor is what is known as the positivity effect. There are people who, taking stock of their life, decide to treasure everything that has been satisfying to them. This approach, this personal filter means that in their daily lives they are oriented to see the positive side of things, to generate quality bonds, to evaluate everything from a more optimistic vision.

Promote an emotionally intelligent and positive maturity

Good emotional intelligence in older people translates into a better quality of life. Health indicators are also related to this factor. Good management of the emotional world reduces stress, depression and improves all those daily challenges that adults of a certain age have to face: losses, illnesses, addictions, etc.


Remember that emotional intelligence does not appear over the years, we do not all know it or do not always apply the best strategies effectively. An interesting strategy would be to activate an emotional intelligence program aimed at older people who do not have cognitive impairment.


High levels of emotional intelligence in older people translate into a better quality of life.

It would involve defining multidisciplinary programs with which to respond to each person on the basis of his or her personal reality. Advanced age is sometimes accompanied by a personal crisis, where weariness, discouragement and disillusionment usually occur on more than one occasion. To bring our seniors closer to dimensions such as empathy, emotional regulation o social skills would greatly favor the aging process.

We must understand the emotional intelligence of older people and not as a key to health, as the engine to generate a more vital, more integrated into society and, obviously, happier third age. We cannot forget that our life expectancy it increases more and more and that we have full right to enjoy it with intensity and with the best resources.

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