Science behind

Prof .Dr. hab. Piotr Błajet, UMK
An employee of the Faculty of Educational Sciences at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń
Specialist in the field of physiology, health education, sport pedagogy, lifelong education

Opinion of Bridge 60+ Program

Presented by Mr. Marek Małysa Bridge 60+ Program is a part of the promoted and implemented by the European Union strategy for Life Long Learning and Active Aging. The Program fulfills an important function of the prophylactic of aging and the prophylactic of diseases related to the period of late adulthood (senior age), including Alzheimer’s disease. Many literature sources indicates high prophylactic efficacy of programs that activate seniors. In my opinion it is unnecessary to cite the results of research, because they are available online/in the Internet, and as a specialist in the field of physiology, health education, sport pedagogy, lifelong education, I’ll try to explain, from a scientific point of view, the validity and essence of the Mr. Marek Małysa project.

Aging is a biological process, that is why we should rather talk about bio-aging, whereas the scope of these changes is always a result of action of biological, psychological and social-cultural factors. This means that the physical and mental activity may slow down the process of bio-aging. However, psychophysical and social stimulation to activity in late adulthood is not done smoothly, which has its “legitimacy” in the biological changes.

The basic biological barriers to activating seniors include:

  • low levels of serotonin and low reactivity to serotonin, leading to a lowering of happiness and confidence;
  • high cortisol levels, leading to increase in stress anxiety;
  • due to impaired excretion of serotonin and cortisol are depression, anxiety and hostility (called a grumpy old man syndrome);
  • during aging comes to significant tissue defects of the frontal lobes, in which are located the centers of regulations, therefore, executive functions are weakened (which may be associated with loss of synapses and demyelination);
  • obesity, which is associated with a reduced volume of gray matter in the brain, and reduced activity worsens the memory.

Therefore there is stalemate situation (vicious circle):

  • dealing/coping with depression and anxiety requires activity: initiative and planning;
  • impairment of executive functions makes it difficult for seniors to struggle with depression, because they lose the ability to lead an active, structured and focused life;
  • may also lose the motivation to meet with relatives and loneliness further increases depression.

Deceleration or slowing aging is mostly related to the degree of mental and physical activity. It is very important to make the activity:

  • non-routine,
  • well loved,
  • representing a certain difficulty,
  • according to your interests, ambitions, goals (sometimes earlier postponed),
  • which is the result of own initiative.

Based on the above considerations, may be identified four necessary conditions for the effectiveness of prophylactic programs of the aging process:

1 Challenges

Human being develops by taking challenges. Focus on taking challenges is not reserved only for the young age, the examples show that struggle with difficulties, elements of risk, attempts to extend current capabilities have also its meaning and justification in the senior age.

2 Cooperation

Possible to occur at the senior-age depression, anxiety and hostility are not conducive to establishing ties, and isolation is a factor that enhances the state of despondency. The way out of this circle is not easy.

Co-operation in solving various tasks is an opportunity to break the closed circle of depression – isolation.
Cooperation creates an opportunity for support in other life problems. This way Neutralises the influence of the stress hormone – cortisol, shortening the duration of the stress, and you have to remember that long-lasting stress contributes to lowering the resistance, while the short-lasting stress may enhance vitality.

3 Personal goals

Seniors in their activity should be guided by the principle of rational egoism, according to which it is rational to always strive for the greatest good of their own (which is moral and virtuous) and other proceeding is not right.

4 Fun

The joy, the pleasure is not reserved for the youth. Fun allows experiencing pleasant state, for this can be the antidote to the so-called “grumpy old man Syndrome” being a consequence of action “hellish mix”: lowering the levels of serotonin and increasing the levels of cortisol in the senior-age (the 4 -component concept of the prevention of aging correlates with the concept of the five pillars of the welfare of Martin Selingman: these are the pillars of positive emotions, absorption, positive relationships, achievement, sense).

Presented Bridge 60+ Program fully meets all four of the necessary conditions for aging prevention programs. Seniors participating in Bridge 60+ will undertake the task guided by their own intentions and interests (condition 3). During participation in the program more and more difficult challenges will appear (condition 1). Dealing with the increase of challenges difficulty and the increase of bridge skills will be a source of rich, valuable, pleasant emotional experience (condition 4). Challenges will be undertaken in cooperation with bridge partner(s), taking part in tournaments will allow establishing additional relationships that will definitely move to other fields of life (condition 2).

I believe that the implementation of the Bridge 60 + Program is absolutely substantiated and can bring many social and economic benefits. It should be mentioned that on the basis of our country the offer is very innovative. In addition to these benefits, the implementation of the program will also be a form of combat social exclusion of seniors.

Piotr Błajet