Programs tailored to personality types, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, can promote health in older adults, according to a new study.
Researchers from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia analyzed the potential effects of lifestyle activities on the cognitive health of more than 3,500 older adults and found that using psychology’s orchid-dandelion personality metaphor can help assess the effectiveness of supportive programs.
Although the study’s findings showed that older adults with relatively average cognitive scores were not affected by lifestyle factors, older adults with very high or very low cognitive scores did see a difference.
“Orchid adults,” according to the researchers, do best under ideal circumstances because they are more sensitive and biologically reactive. “Dandelion adults,” on the other hand, are resilient and more adaptive.
Orchid adults are described as more fragile, making them prone to overreact to ongoing health and housing problems, bad news about the economy and global pandemics. Dandelion adults are said to be less environment-sensitive and more resilient to deterioration in poor environmental conditions.
Although the concepts of orchid and dandelion individuals were first developed to account for different trajectories in childhood development, researchers said their findings suggest that the concept also applies to the other end of the life continuum.
The findings, according to the researchers, are relevant to understanding the relationship between exposure to adverse life events and the development of psychiatric disease, as well as the study of depression and loneliness in older adults.
“These discoveries also offer new possibilities to help and support our older populations throughout the aging process,” the researchers concluded. “Understanding this distribution of the aging population could help decision-makers offer older adults solutions fitting their needs instead of the current one-size-fits-all policy model.
“The possibility of having a significant impact on aging health policies and providing substantial evidence for new social prescribing programs is real,” the authors said.
Social prescribing connects individuals to non-clinical services in the community — rather than prescribing medications — to improve health and well-being.
Their results were published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.
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