More on those sunny dispositions

Author: Gail Hinchion Mancini


Is there such a thing as a cranky personality, and does it affect ones golden years?

Robert West, assistant professor of psychology, has done the research, and he believes that some older people have a positive sense of psychological well-being, and their neurological aging process may be measurably different than those with a negative outlook.

As a researcher, West has been stricken by the fact that two people of similar age and health predisposition can experience varied quality of life. He has been exploring the correlation between neurological health and what the aged report about their positive relationships or social isolation.

We have brain data demonstrating that if you have people who report poor social relationships, their brains look different. Brain activity for those with positive relationships is much more like that of 20-year-olds than those with few quality relationships,West says.

The finding represents good news in Wests mind, because improving ones social life or emotional outlookmay be more promising, and less expensive, than some medical solutions.

Certainly, it points to advice for caregivers: Older adults should be encouraged to get out and to participate in activities. West points to the work of Notre Dame Downtown, which holds social and learning events for older adults, as an example of low-cost activities that may well be having positive health benefits.

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