Older adults have more positive responses about feelings such as serenity, sadness and loneliness than young adults, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Study leader Rebecca Ready, from the university’s department of psychological and brain sciences, said: “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.”
Researchers suggest that the “broader conception of serene” identified among older study participants is associated with the fact that older adults report more calming positive emotions than their younger counterparts.
The study involved 32 participants aged 60 to 92, and 111 aged 18 to 32. All were asked to view cards featuring “emotion terms”, and disclose whether the words had a positive or negative connotation for them.
University of Massachusetts Amherst Photo: Umass.edu
“Although older and younger persons agreed on the terms most strongly associated with serene (i.e. calm, at ease, relaxed, resting), older adults sorted several more words at higher frequencies with serene, including cheerful, happy, joyful, attentive, and delighted,” said the paper published in online journal Aging and Mental Health.
“Thus, older adults perceived serene as linked with a broader array of positive emotion terms than younger persons.
“More experience with feeling serene, for example, may confer more opportunity for this term to be experienced and linked with a broader array of other positive emotions.”
Ready said: “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.”