Can Nostalgia Overcome Aging?


aging psychology

You might think that the more recent an event, the easier it would be to remember it. And you might think that things that happened to you a long time ago would be harder to recall, but the human brain and memory are actually more complex. There is what psychologists call a “reminiscence bump,” which is the tendency for older adults to more easily recall events from their adolescence and early adulthood. And it turns out, reliving parts of this time in life can actually affect the aging process. Is it possible for nostalgia to overcome aging?

When people are asked to produce memories, they tend to recall memories from the “reminiscence bump” in adolescence and early adulthood. There are many reasons for this: There are many “firsts” during that period of time, like first graduation, job, and first experiences like falling in love and losing a loved one. This is generally the period when people develop their sense of self, form their beliefs, and make important decisions that affect them for the rest of their lives. Because of this, it could be the case that the “reminiscence bump” can be used to help keep you young.

In a landmark “Counterclockwise” study at Harvard University,[1] a group of men in their 70s went to a retreat locale that was a sort of time machine back to 1959. The participants listened to Perry Como, watched Ed Sullivan, read magazines from the ’50s, and were not allowed to speak about anything that took place after 1959. If you’re a nostalgic person, you may think this seems like a fun way to spend a week, but the study’s point was to measure the physical effects of the surroundings on the older participants.

Believe it or not, reliving aspects of the time when the participants were younger seemed to make them younger. There was a measurable improvement in their physical strength, manual dexterity, memory, cognition, hearing, and vision. Outside observers even said the participants looked younger when shown before and after pictures. Talk about age just being a number! You could say it pays to be old fashioned.

Transitioning into retirement is no small task, but it can be a good time to reconnect with one’s self after a busy career, go back to one’s roots, and pursue what makes us happy – be that golf or watching reruns of Columbo and listening to the Beatles. Whatever you want your retirement to look like, we can help you create a comprehensive retirement plan that takes your lifestyle goals into account.

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