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Meaning and Contentment
in Later Life

Meaning and Contentment in Later Life

What are the characteristics of people who report contentment and satisfaction in later life?

"Monika Ardelt, an associate sociology professor at the University of Florida, explored the available research on healthy aging. According to studies, satisfaction late in life consists of three key elements: maintaining mental and physical health, having positive relationships with others and volunteering."

How do you preserve these key elements in your life when the body starts to decline? When social roles are diminished, how do you maintain positive relationships with others? How do you do this when you experience major personal losses? Professor Ardelt researched these questions and through this found the key to aging successfully to be wisdom. "Wisdom is the ace in the hole that can help even severely impaired people find meaning, contentment and acceptance in later life."

Professor Ardelt followed the work of geriatric neuropsychologist Vivian Clayton and created a wisdom scale that consisted of 39 questions to measure three dimensions of wisdom. Answers to questions like "a problem has little attraction for me if I don't think it has a solution," and "I can be comfortable with all kinds of people," addressed these qualities. Participants were more likely to possess better coping skills and to be more proactive when dealing with hardships when they possessed higher levels of wisdom.

By contrast, many older folks believe they cannot stand who they have become because it differs from the person who they used to be in appearance and ability. For an individual to grow as they age, they must accept and embrace changes. "Wise people are able to accept reality as it is, with equanimity," Professor Ardelt said.

When aging adults in nursing homes or with terminal illnesses scored high on her wisdom scale, Professor Ardelt found that they also report a greater sense of wellbeing. Adults must possess conviction in their own completeness in order to ward off the despair that illness and gradual physical and cognitive decline can bring. Difficulties of daily living must be accepted with humor and humility. The keys to happy and healthy aging are these dimensions of wisdom. There are questions you might ask yourself to address wisdom issues.

Do you have an understanding of life and a desire to know the truth?

Do you have a desire to understand the deeper meanings of events and intrapersonal matters? Do you have acceptance of the positive and negative aspects of human nature? The ability and the willingness to understand a situation thoroughly may assist you. Acknowledgement of the uncertainty and ambiguity in life are valuable assets. The capacity to make important decisions in life despite the unpredictability and uncertainties are qualities that show wisdom.

Can you see events from multiple perspectives?

The development of the ability to look at phenomena from multiple perspectives is important. To go beyond subjective projections with self-examination, self-awareness and self-insight assist the capacity to reflect with wisdom. To avoid casting blame on others for one's own feelings shows the capacity for wisdom.

Are you sympathetic and do you have compassionate love for others?

Feeling positive emotions for others and showing caring behavior towards them signifies wisdom. Less indifferent or negative emotional judgment of others is a characteristic of wisdom.

Do you have some of these positive human characteristics that have been associated with wisdom in the research of Professor Ardelt and others?

— Compassion, responsibility, and a positive attitude.
— Integrity, acceptance, self-knowledge and detached concern
— Adopting multiple perspectives, empathy and aliveness
— Appreciating ramifications, caring, attentiveness and commitment
— Desiring the good of the whole and cooperation
— Intuitive understanding, curiosity and willingness to risk
— Equanimity, fairness, generosity, self-acceptance and discernment
— Gratitude, deep understanding, hopefulness and wonder
— Humility, dedication, insight, joy, kindness and nurturance
— Self-investigation, openness, patience and self-actualization
— Peacefulness, reflectiveness, respect, self-sufficiency and serenity
— Sound judgment, truthfulness, vision and breadth of considerations

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The Balanced Care Method™, exclusive to Home Care Assistance, is based on the scientifically studied lifestyle choices of the longest and healthiest living population on earth: the seniors of the Okinawa region of Japan. Life spans of over 100 years are not unusual in Okinawa.

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