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Can Advanced Age Increase Altruism?

By Rick Cohen, 9:00 am on

People make charitable contributions for many different reasons that include showing off their wealth and trying to impress others. However, true altruism involves giving of yourself or your material possessions for no other reason than to unselfishly care for others. Scientists from the University of Oregon developed a study to learn more about the traits of people who might be described as being pure altruists. The findings may be surprising to seniors and their Milwaukee caregivers.

The scientists began their research by selecting 80 volunteers who represented a wide demographic in terms of education, financial status and social connections. The subjects were men and women between the ages of 18 and 67. Initially, evaluations of the group consisted of personality tests. The second phase of the experiment involved giving each person the option of donating a sum of money or keeping the amount for himself or herself. During this phase, the researchers performed MRI scans to monitor the activity in the reward center of the brain. While the researchers fully expected to see reward center activity in the subjects who chose to keep the money, they were particularly interested in the people who displayed charitable tendencies.

Regardless of financial background, gender or political affiliation, the volunteers over the age of 45 were the most willing to part with the money and often donated more than the younger subjects. The same people also experienced reward activity when merely witnessing a charitable activity performed by another. Additionally, these people scored high in terms of being pro-social. Although many in this group expressed having a strong spiritual life, religion was not a major factor in determining which subjects were more charitable. 

After receiving the results of the study, researchers believe that by encouraging the key characteristics in others, communities have a better chance of growing stronger. However, the Oregon scientists also shared that further studies involving larger groups of people would solidify the results and provide even more information regarding the relationship between age and altruism.

Family members can also experience the emotional rewards of generosity by hiring Home Care Assistance of Milwaukee to look after their senior loved ones. Our comprehensive services are designed to help seniors with all manner of daily tasks while simultaneously boosting their confidence and overall wellbeing. Contact us at (414) 964-8000 today to learn more about our services and set up a no-obligation consultation with a friendly Care Manager.