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Creativity and humor shown to promote well-being in older adults via similar mechanisms

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Many people associate aging with a decline in cognitive function, health issues, and reduced activity. Uncovering mental processes that can boost the well-being of the older adults could be highly beneficial, as it could help to devise more effective activities aimed at improving their quality of life.

Researchers at University of Brescia and the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart recently carried out a study investigating the contribution of creativity and to the well-being of the elderly. Their findings, published in Neuroscience Letters, show that these two distinct human experiences share common psychological and neurobiological processes that promote well-being in older adults.

"Our recent study belongs to a line of research aimed at investigating the cognitive resources which are still available to and at understanding how such resources can support well-being," Alessandro Antonietti, co-author of the paper, told Medical Xpress.

"A widespread idea is that aging involves the decrease of intellectual efficiency. This is true only of some aspects of cognitive functioning, but not of creativity and humor."

Past studies exploring the neural underpinnings of creativity and humor asked people to complete tasks linked to these processes, while monitoring their brain activity. This could entail, for instance, completing tasks designed to assess and filling in questionnaires that ask study participants to share funny personal experiences or jokes.

"Once a relationship is set between the two domains (creativity and humor), we are in front of a matter of fact, but we do not know why they are related," Antonietti explained.

"In our paper, we tried to propose some conjectures, supported by existing theories, about the reasons of the empirically supported association between creativity and humor. The general claim was that both and humor imply ways of thinking that lead people to step outside their usual viewpoint, so that a new perspective is adopted and new meanings emerge."

The ability to adapt one's view and see the world or events from a different perspective can be linked both to creative processes and humor. This mental flexibility can help older people to cope with difficulties and biological changes, allowing them to adapt their behaviors based on the constraints they might be facing, recognizing both the challenges and opportunities of aging.

"We showed that , namely, the form of thinking that enables individuals to explore new possibilities and not mechanically replicate common responses, is still present in the elderly and can be used to manage every-day life problems, as well as the existential challenges associated with aging," Antonietti said.

"In my opinion, this is an encouraging message for people who believe that aging will imply only losses and a decline in health and well-being. Moreover, showing that creative skills are not disrupted by neurological pathologies commonly linked to aging is a , as it leads people to focus not only on what is lost, but also on what is preserved, or even enhanced."

The recent study by Antonietti and his colleagues highlights the key role of or "divergent thinking" in promoting well-being. In the future, it could inform the development of new activities and designed to foster this mental ability in older adults.

"We are now trying to devise exercises and advice that are contextualized, or in other words, closely related to the actual activities the elderly engage in as part of their everyday life," Antonietti added. "This is important for two reasons.

"First, since the motivation to carry out the exercises and to apply the suggestions is higher if the person understands why they can be useful. Secondly, because the transfer from the setting of the training to real life is more likely to occur if the situations addressed in the training program are resembling those of real life."

More information: Carlo Cristini et al, Creativity and humor in the elderly: Shared mechanisms and common functions to promote well-being, Neuroscience Letters (2024). DOI: 10.1016/j.neulet.2024.137762.

Journal information: Neuroscience Letters

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Citation: Creativity and humor shown to promote well-being in older adults via similar mechanisms (2024, May 18) retrieved 24 June 2024 from
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