Change everything. With the exit from work the routine lapses but also the agenda of the colleagues dissolves, freedom is conquered but it is up to us to give back a rhythm to the days and – last but not least – redefine who we are. Going from I was / was an employee, doctor, shop assistant or teacher to a general pensioner is a change that must be metabolized. a phase of identity reconstruction not to improvise, after all, aging a process that begins when we are in full maturity warns Erika Borella, professor of Psychology of Aging at the University of Padua and referent of the University Specialization School in Health Psychology. Only by combining work, which for many is a central element of life, with interests and projects that make it possible to be realized in different areas, can we age well. But the opposite that scares. That fear of aging badly that keeps you anchored to your desk with the doubt: does retirement affect mental abilities? For sure, going from a too full life to relaxation can be a challenge trauma with effects on mood and more. When the environment is less rich in stimuli, mental abilities and the brain are affected. If we carry out mainly routine activities, we accelerate aging. On the contrary, if we stay active (even on a social level) we will be less affected by physiological changes, and we will feel better, responds Borella. For this reason, a stimulating environment and the habit of competing with different and new activities, which put us in front of the small ones, are fundamental “sfide cognitive“Which then favor neurogenesis. Shutting oneself up in an environment poor in interests and relationships, in which one can also feel alone, can trigger a mechanism that, in the long term, can be as harmful to health as smoking, with the risk of increasing the chances that they will develop. neurodegenerative diseases. After spending your (working) life worrying about overwork, does it turn out that in retirement we will miss the stress? If so stress “Positive”, we must not miss it. In the sense that days full of activities, better if always new, and of practical tasks to be fulfilled are better than the much less healthy “sweet doing nothing”, like being idle in front of the TV. just a “positive stress” that helps to keep us mentally active reminds Borella.
Builders of neurons
This is why retirement time should coincide with another job: building a scaffolding that allows the brain to react to advancing age and compensate for physiological mental (and cerebral) losses for as long as possible. Learn new things, accepting the challenge of approaching technologies at the beginning tiring, as well as being curious about things and people, but it favors the plasticity of the brain, an “ally” that you do not have when we continue to do what we already know how to do well. Examples are i crossword puzzle: very useful pastime, but when you become able to solve them they no longer have the same function. At that point, it would be better to do something else, learn how to play chess or take a photography course, in other words tackle activities that stimulate us and “oblige” us to implement new methods / strategies to face and complete them warns Borella. Strategies and exercises can do a lot, as long as they are based on a reasonable acceptance of age: a positive view of the passage of time (and the transformations it entails) helps. On the contrary, those who resist and associate advancing age with negative aspects and “loss” (of skills, efficiency, autonomy) are more likely to have a collapse with the end of the working age, which affects the quality of aging process. The importance of a positive vision also underlined by studies conducted on groups of people at risk of developing dementia, the results of which showed that those who had a non-stereotyped and more pro-positive vision of the third age manifested the symptoms of cognitive impairment more late compared to those who instead had a negative view of it. The Aging Psychology Service of the University of Padua offers people over 50 personalized or group courses (in this phase of the pandemic through virtual or telephone meetings) that deal with various aspects precisely to improve their mental skills and slow down changes related to ‘et.
The curve of happiness
Society is not a friend of the elderly, but to the underlying idea that makes only the young, beautiful, performing people acceptable, the exclusive values of the mature age can be contrasted, as Borella recalls: The elderly are able to regulate their emotions, unlike of young people, those over seventy on average report greater psychological well-being than their 20-year-old grandchildren. One could say a revenge of life, even if the scientists of the universities of Melbourne (Australia) and Warwick (Gb) who have observed it prefer to call it The U-Curve of happiness: the psychological well-being is high around 20 years old, there a deflection between the ages of 40 and 50 (the mid-life crisis) and then rises again reaching the maximum between the ages of 60 and 70. Right at the retirement age.