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Successful aging mainly refers to better well-being, greater happiness, and not just arriving at old age, but thriving and even flourishing.
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In older age, there is more stress caused by problems like physical illness, the deaths of dear ones, financial problems, retirement, and loss of a sense of purpose.
What matters is how you respond to that stress. With age, although there is a decline in physical health and cognitive function, psychosocial functioning progressively improves. Older people handle stress much better than someone in their 20s and 30s.
Studies have shown that older people are better able to control their emotions; they know themselves better, make better decisions that require experience, and have more compassion and empathy toward other people.
Most aspects of mental processing slow down as we age. While we continue to accumulate knowledge of the world at a slower rate, we gain more experience that increases our wisdom.
Researchers disagree in their hypotheses about how our minds tend to get worse with age. What can be observed is the following:
However, older people seem to be better at emotional regulation.
Some people seem to age mostly with minds intact and others notice dramatic slowdowns. The brain appears to have a lot of redundancy built-in - known as cognitive reserve.
Education seems to have a protective effect on aging, possibly because education contributes to cognitive reserve.
Studies show that older adults who are lonely see a decline in their thinking abilities, which is rapid if paired with other factors like physical inactivity, anxiety, poor sleep and high blood pressure.
Prolonged social isolation is a kind of mental stress leading to various mental and physical health issues like faster ageing, dementia and cognitive decline. It has also been linked to the factors that lead to Alzheimer’s disease, like a build-up of certain toxic proteins in the brain.