Source: University of Bonn
Am I over the hill? This question comes up regularly among workers over 50.
A common misconception is that older people’s efficiency and stress tolerance are continually declining. But mental performance, self-confidence, psychological resilience and well-being can be improved in the over-50 generation.
This is shown in a study by researchers from the Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology at the University of Bonn, which was published online in advance at European Journal of Aging. The print version is expected to be released in December.
Company managers are concerned that older professionals may no longer be able to keep up with technological innovations.
“In the world of work, for a long time, employees often did not have opportunities for training after the age of 45,” Professor Dr. Una Röhr-Sendlmeier from the Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology at the University of Bonn. studies.
“It was assumed that this investment would not be worth it.” This was contradicted by research findings in developmental psychology, which show that lifelong learning is generally very possible.
More than 800 participants
In the project “Learning in everyday work” (“Lernen im Arbeitsalltag”, LiA), Röhr-Sendlmeier’s team studied the impact of particular training sessions on mental speed and concentration, the perception of one’s own competence, self-efficacy and stress management in more than 800 women and men over 50 during the years 2013 to 2019.
“For us, it was important that in each of the training sessions the content of the different training areas was offered in a varied and intertwined way,” reports first author Tanja Hüber.
For example, physical activation was followed by cognitive training, followed by skill reinforcement and, after a break, information on developing stress and relaxation exercises.
The full training course consisted of five modules administered for two and a half hours per week for 15 weeks: In skills training, participants visualized the professional skills and strengths they have acquired throughout their lives. Stress management training consisted of finding individual strategies to deal with stressful situations.
The group trained mental skills and problem-solving skills with the strategy game “Go,” which was unfamiliar to most of them. Memory strategies were part of another module. Activation and relaxation coordination exercises to gain strength in everyday life completed the program. The control group received no training.
While 397 participants started with all five modules, other groups focused on specific training content combined with physical activation. “We wanted to find out what effects cognitive training, skill training, or stress management training each had,” explains co-author Dr. Udo Käser Individual training sessions consisted of two hours per week and took place over seven weeks.
Statistically measurable improvements
Immediately after the completion of the training courses and after another 6 months, the team evaluated the effects of the five-module training course and the specific trainings with questionnaires and tests.
The results show statistically very significant improvements. For example, participants’ information processing speed increased from an average of 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 training group’s self-rating of inner calm also showed an increase from 4.75 before training to 5.28 on a scale of one to nine. The tendency to give up in the face of failure decreased from 5.12 before training to 4.53.
A post-participation survey showed that over 97% of participants would recommend the training to others. The team has more inquiries from companies about the “Learning in everyday work” project. The researchers intend 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.
An advantage for workers and companies
“Professionals over 50 gain quality of life, and companies have the opportunity to offer these professionals a longer life perspective,” concludes Röhr-Sendlmeier. This is a win-win situation for both parties, and given the changing demographics and shortage of skilled workers, it is also of great importance to society at large.
The study was funded by the Hans Hermann Voss Foundation.
About this aging and psychology research news
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 multicomponent training program for employees over 50” by Una Röhr-Sendlmeier et al. European Journal of Aging
Evaluation of a multicomponent training program for employees over 50 years of age
Lifelong learning offers an opportunity for mature employees to stay knowledgeable in light of changing demands, to promote health and to counter physical and cognitive decline.
This intervention study evaluates the effects of a multicomponent training program for employees over 50 years of age, focusing on competency expectations, stress management, cognitive, metacognitive, and psychomotor training.
Effects were evaluated in a longitudinal control group design with follow-up after 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 multicomponent training, 12 additional groups were included, with 4 groups each focusing on competence (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 (average age: M= 55.03, SD= 3.71 years) were analyzed. Participants reported high acceptance of the program.
The multicomponent training program was effective in improving subjective health, self-concept of professional competence, self-efficacy, coping with stress, and cognitive skills with long-term effects for all four last ones Trainings administered by trained instructors had similar effects to those administered by program designers.
The single-component trainings produced specific effects in the targeted areas, generally comparable to those of the multi-component training. Unexpectedly, all single-component training elicited cognitive effects. Subjective health and self-efficacy were only promoted with multicomponent training, indicating broader effects.
The results are discussed in terms of strengths and limitations of the study, possible mechanisms underlying the effects, suggestions for further research as well as for the implementation of training in business practice.