Senior Housing Connection

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Happier with Age?

Friday, January 07, 2011

As a senior living adviser, I’m privileged to be exposed to the wisdom of the elderly. A wise woman, who was approaching 80, once told me that she looked forward the next decade of her life more than any other.  She went on to explain that as she got older, she no longer worried about what others thought and spent more of her time enjoying small pleasures.   I was surprised by her optimistic attitude.  Even though I have the privilege of working with this resilient generation, I’m a product of my own.  More than ever, we are a society obsessed with staying younger and avoiding age at all costs.  We look at aging and its promise of a lonely, isolated existence not as something to look forward to; but something to fear.

However, there is professional validation that our “golden years” can be happier than the bloom of youth.  Kate O’Brien, a geriatric case manager and executive director of Parkwood Heights Senior Living Community provided me with some interesting information that supported by octogenarian friend’s rosy outlook:

There is an overall assumption in our country that the older we get, the more we will experience feelings of loneliness.   But, for older Americans, living alone and being lonely don’t necessarily go hand in hand.  A recent AARP survey found that adults between 45 and 65 were found to be lonelier than those 65 and older. It was further found that the older adult who lives alone does not necessarily feel lonely and/or isolated.

How can this be?

A June 2010 Gallop survey of more than 340,000 adults found that overall levels of life satisfaction increase as one ages. Our oldest elders were found to be most satisfied whether they were living alone or with someone else. As stated so very aptly by an 88 year old woman who was part of this survey, “The closer you get to the end of your life, the more you cherish it.”   As we age, we should not assume that our satisfaction with life declines. We live in an ageist society that views older adults as a withering population. As we give more attention to the overall aging process, we find that although there do exist physiological changes, the human psyche can not only remain intact, but may enhance in ways we have never thought of before now.

At a meeting of the American Psychological Association in August, 2009, Susan Turk Charles, Ph.D, presented information from several studies–one of them a 23-year study of different age groups–indicating that “emotional happiness” actually improves with age. This applies to older adults who do not have age-related dementia.

So as we age, annoying events (and people) don’t bother us the way they used to and we are more likely to appreciate the time we have left.

What about you? Are you getting happier as you get older? Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.