Personality and successful aging

Smart AgingStudies show that people who are outgoing, independent, interested in new people and experiences, and enjoy socializing tend to age well.

“Our personality is long established by our middle years and there are definitely certain characteristics that contribute to successful aging,” explains Dr. Nasreen Khatri, clinical psychologist and clinician leader of the Mood and Related Disorders Clinic/ Cognitive Behaviour Therapy at Baycrest.

Connecting with others provides us with a sense of belonging and meaning in life. A natural curiosity and the desire to seek out new experiences—for example, travelling, learning to read music or becoming more physically active — can help to keep our minds and bodies healthy.

Being open to new ideas, learning to cope with conflict and criticism and to solve problems help build strong psychological buffers that allow us to face the challenges and experience the joy of our later years.

“We find those adults who are extremely rigid in their thinking, physically sedentary, sensitive to criticism and socially isolated are more prone to depression and anxiety,” says Dr. Khatri. “Everyone has a mix of personality traits but it’s important to optimize the helpful ones that contribute to a healthy, enjoyable lifestyle.”

Helpful personality traits include:

  • Resilience, or the ability to adapt
  • Autonomy, having a sense of independence
  • Social Integration, feeling you belong in the community and society at large
  • Integrity, the sense of living a meaningful life
  • Wisdom, the sense that you have valuable insights and experience to share with others

If you feel that you are underdeveloped in some of these areas, try:

  • Exercising your brain by reading books, taking courses or doing crossword puzzles
  • Keeping physically active
  • Experiencing new things such as new travel destinations, new food or music, books, leisure activities, social groups
  • Making friends in every generation
  • Staying in the company of positive people
  • Contributing to your community through patronage, volunteerism or other participation
  • Developing problem-solving skills to build a positive, active approach to small and large life challenges

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