Research indicates that positive social interaction can give meaning to older adults

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Psychological and brain science research shows a link in older adults between social interactions and a sense of purpose. And while these findings, published in the July 2022 issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, apply to both working and retired adults, research has found that for better or for worse, these interactions are more strongly correlated with determination among retired people. .

“Particularly for our retired older adults, this is a construct we should really care about,” said Gabrielle Pfund, who led the study as a doctoral student in the lab of Patrick Hill, associate professor of psychological sciences. and cerebral. Pfund graduated in June and is now at Northwestern University.

The research team worked with a group of around 100 adults with an average age of around 71 years. For 15 days, participants were asked three times a day about the quality of social interactions they had that day. Each night, they were asked to use a scale of one to five to answer the question: How much purpose do you think your life had today?

After analyzing the responses, they found – compared to each person’s baseline – that the more positive interactions a person had during the day, the more purposeful they reported feeling in the evening. Other measures, including employment and relationship status, did not predict a person’s sense of usefulness. What is a sense of purpose? Having a sense of purpose is defined as the extent to which one feels they have personally meaningful goals and directions that guide them through life. It’s worth noting, Pfund said, that the study also showed just how dynamic a person’s sense of purpose can be.

“Most research on sense of purpose focuses on the general orientation of someone with purpose versus someone without purpose,” she said. But it turns out that determination can be more dynamic.

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