Older people are nicer than younger generations?


A key component of the programme supported by the Trust is to support young people to become ambassadors for their community.   The willingness to think of others before themselves, to serve someone in some way without a thought of what they may get in return: the value of compassion has been never before so often questioned perhaps.

Researchers in a study at Birmingham University have found that older adults – by which they mean 55 and above – are more willing to help others than younger people, aged 18 to 36.  Previous studies had already determined that older people are more generous with their time and money – but that might be because in many cases they have more of each to spare.The study focused on their willingness to use up valuable energy to help others as the years go on. And it turns out they are more generous in this department as well.

“Our results showed very clearly that participants in our older age group were more likely to work harder for others, even though they would gain no significant financial reward for themselves,” said Matthew Apps, of Birmingham University.

“A lot of research has focused on the negative changes that happen as people get older. We show that there are positive benefits to getting older too. This kind of behaviour is really important for social cohesion,” added Patricia Lockwood, also of Birmingham University.

Participants were presented with a number of scenarios in which they could earn money – either for themselves or others – by squeezing the device. The amount of money on offer – and the strength of grip required to earn it – varied from one test to the next.

The results showed that when the task was easy, younger and older adults were equally willing to exert their grip to earn money for other people. But when it was harder older adults were more willing to exert themselves to help others.  In contrast, younger adults were more selfish and were much more likely to put in higher levels of effort to benefit themselves.

If this is truly the case on a broader scale, we hope that the Values project endorsed by the Trust will guide younger people to recognise the importance and value of doing something for others.

What you contribute should not be measured in terms of personal gain.  Acts of compassion, the giving of oneself is when life finds meaning.