According to Swiss researchers, how successfully you adapt to ageing depends on your personality (Pocnet and colleagues, Psychology Today 2021). This study examined the 5 personality traits: conscientiousness, neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience and agreeableness.
The team examined 76 studies to see how these traits would influence someone’s thinking, feelings and actions. And in turn, how these traits contributed to a person’s well-being. To describe each trait more fully, information was taken from the Understand Myself personality assessment developed by Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson and his colleagues.
People who rated highly on conscientiousness took good care of themselves. They showed self-discipline in their diet and abstained from drugs and alcohol. They made plans and were better able to adapt to change. Other people found them reliable and sought them out as friends.
However there is a downside. A person with a high score in conscientiousness tends to be a perfectionist. This can lead to physical stress when life’s circumstances do not measure up. They are generally orderly and industrious. They can be frustrated if their physical capacity diminishes and they must rely on others to complete everyday tasks.
The authors found that someone with a high score in neuroticism is likely to have difficulties adapting to the changes brought on by ageing. They may make poor choices in their diet and health care and this makes them vulnerable to disease. Neuroticism is linked with cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s.
In the care situation, people with a high neuroticism score may worry about changes to their home routine. They may need extra time to accept new staff. Stable routines, sticking to plans and having good information are helpful. They are risk-adverse.
People who score high on extraversion are generally more optimistic. They make and keep friends easily. This stands them in good stead when circumstances get rough. Their wide network means it is easier for them to find the help then need.
The authors suggest extraversion can protect someone from loneliness and social withdrawal. An extraverted person is more likely to agree to join a group such as a morning tea club or a chair yoga class. On the other hand, someone who is low in extraversion craves time to recharge. A social gathering can exhaust them.
Being open to experiences was a positive predictor of successful aging. This openness included an appreciation of the arts and the ability to explore new ideas. They like to stay mentally engaged with the world. They are sensitive to their surroundings and want to be surrounded by beautiful things. If they use medical equipment frequently, see if it can be stored discreetly so it does not dominate the home. Bright colours can enhance their mood.
The authors considered openness offers some protection against cognitive decline. This trait makes it easier to accept new carers, new tradespeople and new friendships. It also helps the individual accept changes of circumstances.
The fifth personality measure is agreeableness. An agreeable person is easy going. This can place them at risk. They may be vulnerable to scams. They may accept a plan or decision that is not in their own best interest. Be sure there is a cooling off period so they can think through major decisions.
You may expect someone who is high in agreeableness would find it easier to manage the aging process, however there is no evidence of this. More research is needed.
To explore this topic further, please look at the Understand Myself personality test. It is available online at www.understandmyself.com
Kendall Morton is Director of Home Care Assistance Sunshine Coast to Wide Bay. Call 5491 6888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org