Older generations feel health benefits by passing on their knowledge
The action of helping family members gives a sense of fulfilment to the elder generation Photo: Alamy
Passing on pearls of wisdom boosts pensioners’ health and gives them a sunnier outlook on life, scientists say.
A new study showed that those who hand out tips to family members, friends, neighbours or even strangers see their lives as very meaningful.
But pensioners who don’t share their experience feel their life is more pointless, scientists believe.
People over 60 uniquely seem to benefit from providing advice, the study published in Social Psychology Quarterly concluded.
But this happens to be the age when opportunities for dispensing it becomes increasingly scarce.
Professor Markus Schafer, of Toronto University, said: “This association between advice giving and life meaning is not evident for other age groups.
“Overall we interpret these findings to suggest the developmental demands of late midlife – particularly the desire to contribute to others’ welfare and the fear of feeling ‘stagnant’ – fit poorly with the social and demographic realities for this segment of the life course.
“Just when giving advice seems to be most important, opportunities for doing so seem to wane.”
Prof Schafer and Laura Upenieks, a doctoral candidate in sociology, studied a survey of 2,583 US adults and found 21 percent of those in their 60s and 27 percent of over reported giving advice to no one in the previous year – compared to only about 10 per cent of under 60s.
Prof Schafer said: “Conventional age norms suggest the ideal mentor or advice-giver is someone who has a lot of life experience.
“However – compared to their younger counterparts – older adults occupy fewer social roles, are less socially active and interact with a more restricted range of people.
“So while the average 65-year-old may well have more wisdom than the average 30-year-old, demographic and social structure factors seem to provide the latter with more opportunity for actually dispensing advice.”
Some scholars have argued the essence of mattering – the idea one is meaningful and consequential to other people – is most under threat during late-middle age when many people retire and enter the “empty nest” phase of life.
Prof Schafer said: “The mattering perspective helps explain why it’s this period of the life span – in particular – when it’s important for people to feel like they can still have influence on others through actions such as giving advice.
“The results should prompt reflection on the social fabric of American communities and how late-middle age adults fit into the picture.
“Our findings underscore the importance of giving older adults occasions to share their wisdom and life experiences.
“Schools, churches, civic organisations and other community groups could consider how to facilitate inter-generational mentorship experiences and to creatively enable more older adults to be advice-givers.”