Would you like to experience higher levels of well-being in later life? 


Many of us are considering our “future selves”, making wise investments and pouring over the options to maximise our wealth.  Many of us are doing things to ensure optimal health continues into our old age.  Many of us are investing in our relationships, knowing these people we can both give and receive love and support from going forward. 


How many of us are investing in wisdom for our old age?


Wisdom?  It’s not something I even thought about as an investment.  Until my latest knowledge quest into wisdom, I thought you acquired it as you aged.  End of story, right?


Not so, says Dr. Monica Ardelt and Dr. Jeste, who set out to see if they could scientifically test whether resiliency and the accompanying reduction in stress might be another possible pathway from wisdom to Subjective Well-Being (SWB). (Ardelt and Jeste, 2022)


Their hypotheses were:

  1. Being wise would be connected to having more resilience and greater control over life’s challenges while less stressed.
  2. If someone had more resilience and a sense of mastery over life, they would tend to be happier and less stressed.
  3. If someone experienced a lot of stress, they would likely have lower levels of overall well-being or life satisfaction.
  4. When older adults face tough times, wisdom doesn’t fully explain why they experience SWB. In these situations, wisdom’s aspects like understanding, self-reflection, and compassion might help them stay emotionally well.  In other words, wisdom becomes an essential source of well-being during difficult times.


So what did they find?


  1. Having wisdom was linked to being better at bouncing back from challenges (resilience) and feeling in control of your life (mastery). People with wisdom also tended to feel less stressed.
  2. When someone had more resilience and a sense of mastery, they were more likely to have SWB and be less stressed.
  3. If someone felt a lot of stress, they were less likely to experience SWB.
  4. For older adults who experienced many tough life events in the past year, having wisdom still directly made a difference in their well-being. This means that wisdom’s positive impact on SWB remained strong even when considering its indirect effects through other factors.


Over time, the connections between wisdom, resilience, and mastery likely involve a back-and-forth process where they influence each other.  Being resilient and having a sense of mastery probably help people grow and become wiser when they face stressful situations.  They learn essential life lessons through these experiences.  On the flip side, becoming wiser also makes them more resilient and better at handling future crises, which reduces stress and gives them more chances for personal growth.


So what?


The authors suggest “adversity might be a catalyst for the development of greater resilience, mastery, and wisdom.” (Ardelt and Jeste, 2022).  Wisdom makes people experience SWB in various ways, but as you age and face physical, cognitive, and social challenges, resilience becomes especially important for maintaining it.  Their findings suggest that the brain can adapt and change with age (neuroplasticity), and they highlight the value of social programmes or therapies focused on wisdom and resilience to boost well-being in old age, i.e. there are ways to help wisdom flourish.


Time to invest in wisdom?

About the Wayfinders' Blog

The Wayfinders’ Blog helps individuals, teams and organisations discover and develop their unique strengths. I provide valuable insights and practical tips to my audience empowering them to develop their talents into strengths and achieve their goals.

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