In the face of a culture that seems increasingly to value youth and devalue old age, here’s some great counter-cultural news: a just-released survey shows that older adults are actually happier and less anxious than their younger peers. You can read this encouraging article here on the website called HealthDay. It’ll make your day, as it did ours!
The research findings cited in the article were published this week in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. The study included more than 1,500 people ranging in age from 21 to 99. It found that, even though older adults do have more physical problems and issues with memory, they reported less stress and more satisfaction with their lives than younger people. The reasons for this phenomenon are not completely clear but the researchers have their theories.
One influencing factor that definitely makes sense to us is the wisdom and perspective that comes with age. Older people generally learn not to let little things bother them. Younger people, especially the youngest in the test group, tend to get upset over things that older adults tend to minimize, such as not getting enough “likes” on Facebook, in the words of one researcher, Dr. Dilip Jeste. “When you’re young, everything is so important. And getting approval from others is critical,” said Jeste, who is director of the Center for Healthy Aging at the University of California, San Diego.
One researcher called this ability to maintain perspective “emotional regulation.” As we age we tend to get better at it. In the words of this scientist, “Life experience gives you perspective. You know the downs don’t last, and the ups don’t last.”
The research study did show what most of us already know: physical health concerns and memory impairment were naturally more common among older adults. But the highest levels of stress, anxiety and depression were actually reported among survey respondents in their 20’s and 30’s. So in an ironic reversal, in spite of some cognitive decline, overall mental and emotional health “steadily improved with age, the researchers found.” Dr. Jeste from UCSD points out that the study did not follow the same people over time, so they couldn’t prove that younger people who are stressed-out eventually mature into seniors who are happier and better-adjusted. “We can’t say for sure that you’ll be happier at 80 than at 20,” Jeste said. “But we think it’s likely.” There may also be genetic factors that contribute to happiness, say the researchers. Some psychologists suggest that certain people’s brains act as if they are “hard-wired for happiness.”
Nevertheless, if you’re a younger person or if you spend some time around them, there are a few ideas in the article to help younger people learn from their elders and improve their mood. A class in meditation might help. More socializing and less isolation is another idea. Perhaps the best idea is from UCSD’s Dr. Jeste: younger people should spend more time with their elders, learning from them and gaining wisdom and perspective.
After all, we would interject, that’s how it works in other cultures! Why is the United States so bad an honoring the wisdom of its older citizens? It’s almost a national scandal, we think.
Here’s the bottom line from the HealthDay article: in spite of cultural prejudice, “youth is not bliss, and old age is not something to be feared.” One researcher said, “People still look at aging as something to dread. But as you age, you acquire wisdom. With that, life generally becomes easier and more pleasant.”
Listening to those wiser than we are is a powerful life principle. Here at AgingOptions we like to think that our consultations with the hundreds of clients we’ve assisted over the years, not to mention the many thousands we’ve interacted with in seminars and via radio, have given us a wise perspective when it comes to retirement planning. We call our approach LifePlanning, because it really does take into account all aspects of our lives in retirement. Where do we want to live? How will we protect our financial resources? Will we have adequate health care? Does our family know and support the choices we’ve made? Are all our legal affairs carefully considered and in order? Imagine the confidence you’ll feel as you look toward retirement with a plan like this in place and all these essential questions answered!
To find out more about this exciting breakthrough in retirement planning, we invite you to attend a free LifePlanning Seminar at a location near you. We assure you this will be a few hours very well spent! Click on the Upcoming Events tab for information and online registration, or call our office and we’ll assist you by phone. It will be a pleasure working with you.
(originally reported at https://consumer.healthday.com)