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September 12, 2023

Helping Older Adults Find Deeper Meaning

Dwight Tse Helping Older Adults Find Deeper Meaning CGUniverse Blog Image

Dwight Tse is interested in how people define – and live – meaningful lives. His research interests range from the impact of prosocial activities on psychological and physical well-being to solitude, aging, and lifespan developmental psychology.

His recent research has investigated the impact of extreme temperatures on the overall health and well-being of seniors in Hong Kong. He wanted to understand how climate change exacerbated other factors inhibiting their well-being, including the cost of living, architecture, and urban planning, so he surveyed their daily activities and social habits, searching for localized interventions that could optimize their physical and mental health.

The findings showed that older adults felt more negative emotions when it was hot. However, if they were doing something meaningful and engaging, they were less susceptible to the hot temperatures. This protective effect of doing something meaningful and engaging was stronger among older adults with low socioeconomic status, suggesting a potential way to address climate-related inequality.

Exemplifying CGU’s transdisciplinary approach, Tse’s work bridges statistics, behavioral science, and positive psychology to create applied knowledge relevant to anyone looking to maximize their well-being. While at CGU, Tse studied the work of renowned CGU Professor and “godfather of flow state” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Tse’s research using flow state, or the experience of deep concentration and absorption, applied existing national data sets of respondents of different ages over a period of 8 to 10 years, looking for the personality patterns most associated with flow over time. He found that respondents with a higher flow state maintained it over time and that flow could make even mundane chores more enjoyable. Finally, he found seven core personality types associated with flow state: curiosity, persistence, low self-centeredness, intrinsic motivation, enjoyment of challenge, getting value out of tedium, and attention control.

Now working as a lecturer in psychology at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Tse cites his mentors at CGU as integral to his success: “I wouldn’t be able to make it work without them. Their time and attention to my personal and professional development aided me in my success.”

He encourages PhD students to think strategically in terms of coursework. “Research translates to conference presentations and a portfolio for industry partners. Try reaching out to faculty and don’t feel shy or intimidated. They are busy but supportive, and having good conversations and developing strong relationships with faculty is important for your career and personal development.”