Management of emotions in old age

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Joe Dispenza

Management of emotions in old age

Despite physical and cognitive decline, older adults are more attuned to positive emotions due to their emotion management mechanism.

Written and verified by the psychologist GetPersonalGrowth.

Last update: 15 November 2021

Proper management of emotions in old age is an exercise in health and well-being. Curiously, several studies have confirmed that despite physical and cognitive decline, older people are generally much more attuned to positive emotions. For example, they value social relationships more and enjoy more control over their emotional sphere.

The Swiss philosopher Henri-Frédéric Amiel said that knowing how to age is the masterpiece of wisdom and one of the most difficult aspects of the great art of living. It is not easy, without a doubt, to get there over the years while maintaining the same optimism of a young man who still expects everything from life. Still, emotion management seems to improve as time progresses.

The elders know well that the key to happiness is not waiting for something. True well-being lies in dwelling on the present with humility, simplicity and optimism.

"Old wood is the best to fire, aged wine is the best to drink, old friends the best to trust and old authors the best to read."

-Francis Bacon-

This is what much research in the field of gerontology reveals. In old age, faced with the decline of the body and mental faculties, the human being strengthens a state of objective and admirable happiness.

Good management of emotions in the autumn of life allows us to better adapt to the reality of old age. It would be one capability known to a large sector of the population.

Management of emotions in the third age, latest discoveries

The study of the management of emotions in old age is a relatively new field. Certainly thanks to the increase in life expectancy, this sector of the population will have an increasing social weight in the coming decades.

The crucial challenge that we all have to face sooner or later is to be able to reach old age in the best possible way. We are not just talking about physical well-being, but above all about emotional health.

Research on aging is making great strides. As a curiosity, Dr. Derek Isaacowitzel, an expert in the field of emotions at Yale University, has developed a technology that helps study selective attention in older adults. It is a pair of glasses capable of recording the stimuli that most attract the attention of the beholder. The next step will be to analyze their emotional reactions.

The psychologist has shown that in 90% of cases the elderly are much more interested in faces that express positive emotions. This preference, this constant search for a smiling face, a warm look or kind words, helps them to self-regulate their emotions. It is as if the brain acts as a cognitive mediator when it focuses on these stimuli; in this way he is able to reduce negative emotions and absorb positivity.

Emotions do not deteriorate in the aging process

With old age, first of all, there is a change in motivation. Long-term goals are reduced to invest in a better quality of life today. The mechanism for managing emotions has a concrete purpose, a well-defined reason; try to optimize emotional experiences to enjoy balance, inner calm, relationships with friends and family.

  • This represents the so-called "paradox of well-being in old age". It may be surprising, but older people are on average more satisfied with life than younger people. This is due to this ability to regulate emotions, a mechanism that does not parallel the deterioration of cognitive processes.
  • We know, for example, that aging primarily affects the frontal lobes. This is where the ability to pay attention, problem solving, planning, etc. resides. Emotions remain intact, together with the ability to interact with the environment through a smile and a look, to recognize affection. They even survive serious and dramatic illnesses like Alzheimer's.

Old age makes us more selective

When you are young, you are anxious to experiment, to "feel", to welcome everything with open arms and with a good disposition of mind. However, as we mature, we begin to put filters or even fences. When you finally cross the threshold that leads to the autumn of life, you change your perspective again. The fences are dropped and the filters become more selective. Priority and attention are given to everything that can provide well-being and not to problems.

As Heiner Ellgring, psychologist and researcher at the Max-Planck Institut in Munich explains, the elderly person focuses his attention on three aspects:

  • Enjoy relationships with relatives and friends.
  • Invest in health.
  • Take care and enjoy your resources (home, garden, vegetable garden, animals, etc).

For the elderly, living fully means taking care of these three aspects. Subjective happiness resides in these three factors, of which the social, relational and affective aspects are the most important. Healthy aging, therefore, is all about being selective and knowing how to choose priorities. One of these is undoubtedly the need to feel positive emotions every day.

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