Wednesday, 11 May 2016

What is it like to live to over 100?

Roger Watson, Editor

Ever wondered what it is like to live to 100 and what the factors are that enable a person to do this?  Clearly, some luck is involved supported by a blend of genetic and environmental factors; but what is it like to outlive all your friends, your spouse and even some of your children?  This is precisely what was investigated by Hutnik et al. (2016) and reported in an article titled: 'Using a cognitive behavioural lens to understand psychological processes underlying resilience in the stories of 16 UK centenarians' and published in Nursing Open. 

Of the study, the authors say: 'In 2010, we interviewed 16 UK centenarians about their lives and later published a paper on the socio-emotional aspects of positive ageing. We were struck by their ability to ‘move on’ from difficult situations which we recognized conceptually as ‘resilience’. In the effort to understand aspects of resilience as portrayed in their stories, we re-examined their data.'

Some of the quotes are very revealing, for example: '. . quite a lot of things have happened. . .different things, what with my father being killed and then my husband going to the war and my brother being killed and things like that. But then again, you’re left and you’ve got to get on and that’s it. . .You just have to cope with it, don’t you? I’m afraid I’m one of those resilient people, I don’t just sit down and cry when it comes, I’ve just got to get on with it.'  and 'Never give up. I don’t think of death. I think of living and what I am going to do and what I am going to enjoy.'

In conclusion, the authors say: 'We have shown that 16 centenarians demonstrated resilience in their ability to positively frame very difficult life events by considering themselves ‘lucky’ or ‘fortunate’ thereby creating for themselves positive emotion. Their resilience was also evident in their ability to accept things they could not change (such as physical decline) with resignation and at the same time, a determination to move on. They knew how to manage anxiety and worry. Additionally, resilience was seen in their psychological flexibility, their positive attitude to and adaptation to change. We also found resilience in their quest to flourish, to be engaged in their passions, hobbies and interests and thus to find continuing meaning in their very long lives.'

Reference

Hutnik M, Smith P, Koch T (2016) Using a cognitive behavioural lens to understand psychological processes underlying resilience in the stories of 16 UK centenarians Nursing Open doi: 10.1002/nop2.44

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