Overview: Workers over 50 often benefit from improved mental performance, confidence, psychological resilience and a greater sense of well-being, especially when exposed to specific training sessions.
Source: University of Bonn
Am I over the hill? This question is regularly raised among the over-50s.
A common prejudice is that the efficiency and stress tolerance of older people is constantly declining. But in the over-50s, mental performance, self-confidence, psychological resilience and well-being can be improved.
This is the conclusion of a study by researchers from the Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology at the University of Bonn, which was published online in advance in the European magazine for aging. The printed version is expected to be released in December.
Business leaders are concerned that older professionals can no longer keep up with technological innovations.
“In the working world, employees often did not have the opportunity for further training for a long time after the age of 45,” reports Prof. Dr. Una Röhr-Sendlmeier from the Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology at the University of Bonn from previous studies.
“It was assumed that such an investment would not be worth it.” This has been contradicted by the results of research in developmental psychology, which shows that lifelong learning is generally possible.
More than 800 participants
In the project “Learning in daily work” (“Lernen im Arbeitsalltag”, LiA), Röhr-Sendlmeier’s team studied the impact of certain training sessions on mental speed and concentration, perception of one’s own competence, self-efficacy and stress management in more than 800 women and men aged 50 and over in the years 2013 to 2019.
“It was important to us that in each of the training sessions the content in the different training areas was presented in a varied and interlocking way,” reports first author Tanja Hüber.
For example, physical activation was followed by cognitive training, then skills enhancement, and after a break, information about stress development and relaxation exercises.
The complete training consisted of five modules delivered for two and a half hours per week for 15 weeks: In the skills training, participants visualized the skills and professional strengths they have acquired over the course of their lives. Stress management training was about finding individual strategies to deal with stressful situations.
The group trained mental skills and problem-solving skills with the strategy game “Go”, which was largely unknown to most. Memory strategies were part of another module. Coordination exercises for activation and relaxation exercises to get stronger in daily life completed the program. The control group received no training.
While 397 participants started with the five modules, other groups focused on specific training contents combined with physical activation. “We wanted to know what effects the cognitive training, the skills training or the stress management training each had individually,” explains co-author Dr. Udo Kaser out. The individual training sessions covered two hours a week and took place for seven weeks.
Statistically measurable improvements
Immediately after the training was completed and after a further 6 months, the team evaluated the effects of the five-module training and the specific training with questionnaires and tests.
The results show statistically very significant improvements. For example, participants’ information processing speed increased on average from 2.42 bits per second before training to 2.65 bits per second six months after training. In contrast, the control group changed little.
The self-assessment of inner peace by the training group also showed an increase from 4.75 before training to 5.28 on a scale of one to nine. The propensity to give up on failure decreased from 5.12 before training to 4.53.
A post-participation survey found that more than 97 percent of participants would recommend the training to others. The team has additional questions from companies about the “Learning in daily work” project. The researchers plan to continue the project beyond the funded period. They are also invited to present their findings at the International Conference on the Future of Preventive Medicine and Public Health in Barcelona, Spain, in March 2023.
A win-win for employees and companies
“Professionals over 50 get a quality of life and companies get the chance to offer these professionals a longer perspective,” concludes Röhr-Sendlmeier. This is a win-win situation for both sides – and given the demographic change and the shortage of skilled labor, it is also of great importance to society as a whole.
The research was funded by the Hans Hermann Voss Foundation.
About this news about aging and psychology research
Author: Johannes Seiler
Source: University of Bonn
Contact: Johannes Seiler – University of Bonn
Image: The image is in the public domain
Original research: Open access.
“Evaluation of a multi-component training program for workers aged 50 and older” by Una Röhr-Sendlmeier et al. European magazine for aging
Evaluation of a multi-component training program for employees aged 50+
Lifelong learning offers adult workers the opportunity to respond to changing demands, promote health and combat physical and cognitive decline.
This intervention study evaluates the effects of a multi-component training program for employees aged 50+, targeting competence expectations, stress management, cognitive, metacognitive and psychomotor training.
Effects were evaluated in a longitudinal control group design with follow-up at six months (24 training groups, n= 247, participants per group: m= 13.04, SD= 2.44; control group, n= 199).
To control for experimenter effects, the same program was administered to 6 additional groups by trained instructors (n= 54, participants per group: m= 11.83, SD= 3.37).
To validate the effects of the multi-component training, 12 additional groups were included, with 4 groups each targeting either the competency (n= 49, participants per group: m= 15.00, SD= 0.00) or cognitive (n= 43, participants per group: m= 14.25, SD= 1.50) or stress management components (n= 41, participants per group: m= 14.50, SD= 0.58).
Data from 633 adults (mean age: m= 55.03, SD= 3.71 years) were analysed. The participants reported high acceptance of the program.
The multi-component training program was effective with regard to improvements in subjective health, self-concept of professional competence, self-efficacy, coping with stress and cognitive skills with long-term effects for the last four. Training delivered by trained instructors had similar effects to those provided by the program designers.
The one-component training resulted in specific effects on the focus areas, broadly comparable to that of the multi-component training. Unexpectedly, cognitive effects were obtained by all 1-component workouts. Subjective health and self-efficacy were only promoted by the multi-component training, indicating broader effects.
The results are discussed with regard to strengths and limitations of the research, possible mechanisms underlying the effects, suggestions for further research and for the implementation of the training in business practice.