Doris is a curious woman, and she is living a long and fulfilling life. Her insatiable curiosity drives her to seek out new knowledge, ask questions, and explore the world around her. She reads widely and is a member of a book club, she helps out in a local foodbank (it makes her sad that they exists but it gives her a deep sense of purpose), she still loves cooking and has just downloaded a bird song listening app on her phone as she is teaching her great grandchildren the calls and songs of individual birds. She is even thinking about doing a university course after hearing about other people in their 90s who have done it and enjoyed. She always wanted to do an English degree, but it wasn’t possible when she was younger and now thinks, ‘why not’. While some may dismiss Doris’ curiosity as a personal quirk, research shows that her trait may contribute to her longevity and quality of life.
And while Doris might be just a fictional character (well semi fictional, I am using the name of my gran who was very curious, a great cook, who knew the names of every bird, tree and flower on the planet, who always regretted not studying English at University and lived until a ripe old age), studies have shown that curiosity is associated with a range of health benefits. For instance, one study published in the Journal of Aging found that older adults who scored higher on measures of curiosity had a lower risk of dying over a five-year period. Similarly, a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer Disease found that older adults who engage in more curiosity-promoting activities have better cognitive functions than those who did not.
While it may be tempting to dismiss curiosity as a personal trait, it can play a key role in promoting healthy ageing.
Doris’ curiosity is also helping her stay socially connected, which is another key factor in healthy ageing. Research has shown that social engagement is associated with a range of mental health benefits as we age. By joining clubs and groups, volunteering, and making an effort to meet new people, Doris enriches her life and gains important emotional support and a sense of purpose. And the positives of curiosity keep on giving, with additional benefits such as reducing the risk of chronic disease, better cognitive function, and increased resilience in the face of stress and adversity.
While it may be tempting to dismiss curiosity as a personal trait, it can play a key role in promoting healthy ageing. By encouraging our desire to seek out new knowledge, ask questions, and explore the world around us, curiosity may help to improve our memory, reduce the risk of chronic disease, and increase our resilience in the face of stress and adversity. As Doris’ story demonstrates, the power of curiosity to help us live longer and better lives is not to be underestimated.