Researchers led by Robert Levenson of the University of California, Berkeley, found people age 60 and older are better able to see the positive side of a stressful situation and more likely to empathize with others.
The study, published in Psychology and Aging, found older study participants more often used "positive reappraisal" -- a coping mechanism drawing heavily on life experience and lessons learned. Younger and middle-aged participants usually used "detached appraisal" -- coping by adopting an objective, unemotional attitude.
Since emotional intelligence is important at any age, the researchers suggest those in their 60s should enjoy an advantage in the workplace and in personal relationships.
"Increasingly, it appears that the meaning of late life centers on social relationships and caring for and being cared for by others," Levenson said in a statement. "Evolution seems to have tuned our nervous systems in ways that are optimal for these kinds of interpersonal and compassionate activities as we age."
Levenson and colleagues evaluated how 144 healthy adults in their 20s, 40s and 60s reacted to neutral, sad and disgusting situations.