Does Getting Older Make People Happier?
© 2015 Health Realizations, Inc. Update
Many people do not look forward to getting older, and will instead do everything in their power, including resorting to plastic surgery, to escape the hands of time. But what if all our fears of aging -- and our preconceived notions that it means we will be dependant on others, lonely and unfulfilled, slower mentally and crumbling physically -- are actually unfounded?
People in their 80s and 90s generally report being happier than younger people.
What if getting older would actually make us happier?
As it turns out, the “golden years” are aptly named as numerous studies show people do get happier as they get older.
New research presented at the American Psychological Association’s 2009 annual meeting found that people in their 80s and 90s generally report being happier than younger people, and feeling less negative emotion such as sadness, anxiety and anger.
Susan Turk Charles, a psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, pointed out several reasons why happiness may increase with age. She indicated that older adults:
May better regulate their emotions, avoiding negative experiences and limiting their exposure to stressful situations
Interact mostly with close friends and family members, which may lead to more positive social experiences and increased well-being compared to interactions with new acquaintances.
Typically do not have exposure to work stress.
Are generally treated with respect, and may be less likely to be confronted with an argument.
Limit the time they spend thinking about negative things and focus on positive aspects instead.
May think of memories in a more positive light.
This is not the first study to suggest that age may lead to a brighter outlook.
Research by Yang Yang, a University of Chicago sociologist, published in American Sociological Review, involved 28,000 people between the ages of 18 and 88. The findings were based on face-to-face interviews that took place periodically from 1972 to 2004.
While overall happiness levels fluctuated during the study period, at every stage older Americans were the happiest. Further:
The likelihood of being happy increased 5 percent with every 10 years of age.
About 33 percent of Americans said they were very happy at age 88, compared to just 24 percent of those aged 18 to early 20s.
"The good news is that with age comes happiness," Yang told USA Today. "Life gets better in one's perception as one ages."
How to Make Aging a Graceful Process for You
“It's never too late to change the two most important ingredients to graceful aging -- attitude and lifestyle,” says meditation expert Mary Maddux, whose guided meditations are featured on a relaxation cd.
You can choose to accept aging with gusto and embrace it as a natural and joyful part of your life, a choice that becomes easier when you let go of some common myths surrounding the aging process. Here Maddux debunks some common aging myths once and for all:
Your attitude and lifestyle are the two most important ingredients for graceful aging.
Myth #1 - The older I get, the worse my body will feel. The increasing stiffness and aches & pains that often come with age are not a result of age, but are due to lack of movement (if you don't use it, you'll lose it). Although there are some changes in our tissues as we age, we can continue to remain remarkably flexible and free of pain through something as simple as regular stretching.
Myth #2 - It's too late to start taking care of myself ... it won't do any good at this age. A healthy lifestyle has been found to be one of the most important factors in how we age. Improvements in lifestyle (with the 3 key areas being good food, exercise and regular relaxation and rest) will bring improvements at any age.
Myth #3 - I'm getting too old to learn new things ("You can't teach an old dog new tricks") Research shows that older people can, and do, learn new things. Attitude plays an important role here - if you think you can't, you won't try. People who believe they can learn new things do!
Myth #4 - Sex is only for the young. People can, and do, continue to enjoy sex well into their senior years. We are sexual beings throughout the life cycle, but sexuality is experienced differently at different ages. Changes in hormones will affect our experience of sex, and we may need to find different ways to be intimate. Relaxation is key here so that we don't panic when things don't happen the way they used to. We're not "over the hill", but we simply need to give ourselves some "breathing room" to become familiar with our changing physiologies.
Myth #5 - The older I get, the less attractive I become. There is nothing more attractive than someone who has "aged well." Haven't you ever noticed that special "radiance" of an elderly person who is at peace with themselves and life? Attractiveness has absolutely nothing to do with age!
Three Steps to Living Healthy at Any Age
Top 20 Antioxidant Foods
Looking for foods that pack a powerful antioxidant punch? These foods have the most antioxidants of all, according to a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
As Maddux points out, leading a healthy lifestyle is also key to keep enjoying your life well into your golden years.
Some easy ways to take charge of your lifestyle in a positive way right now include:
Exercise Regularly. Exercise at a level that's comfortable for you, and do it regularly, rather than overdoing it by exercising too often or too strenuously. And if you would like to increase muscle strength and endurance or recover more quickly from workouts, try adding supplemental carnosine to your exercise and fitness plan. Carnosine is a multi-functional dietary supplement that is very helpful for preventing accelerating aging. Muscle levels decrease 63% from age ten to age seventy, which may account for the reduction in muscle mass and function seen in aging humans. Your body’s carnosine levels decline with age so supplementing with it may provide broad-spectrum shield against protein degradation.
An excellent beginning or addition to any exercise routine, simple as it may sound, is stretching. A few well-performed stretches can do wonders for your body and your mind.
Relax and Find Ways to Relieve Stress. Trying to fit too many tasks into a day, or filling your time with too many stressful activities, will wear you down, no matter how many fruits and vegetables you eat. Organize your life so you have time to appreciate little enjoyments, spend time with family and friends who make you feel good, and take time for yourself when you need it. Enhance your relaxation with more magnesium, specifically magnesium L-threonate, a superior form of magnesium that crosses the blood brain barrier and helps to support relaxation, recall and anxiety reduction. It is excellent as part of an anti-aging program as researchers at MIT conclude that elevating brain magnesium levels with magnesium L-threonate may be a beneficial in enhancing cognitive abilities and preventing age-related memory decline.
Eat a Healthy Diet, With Lots of Antioxidants. Antioxidants can be vitamins, minerals or enzymes, and they exist in foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts and other whole foods) and certain supplements. Want some help to fortify your diet with antioxidants? As follows are a list of the top 20 antioxidant foods and six disease-fighting super antioxidants you’re likely not getting enough of.
If you're looking for a quick way to get more fruits and veggies into your diet, Roberta Anding, an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman, suggests creating an antioxidant "power salad."
To make it, she says, "Put together a salad with a variety of mixed greens. Then I'd throw in some dried cranberries or blueberries from the health food store, toss in a few nuts, with a low-fat salad dressing ... choosing [fruits and vegetables] from the colors of the rainbow."
Aging simply does not have to mean declining in every area of life. With proactive attention to your lifestyle, attitude and health regimen, you can enjoy your life as you age radiantly and healthfully.