Three Things We Can Learn From Seniors About Happiness

What is the happiest age? Many of us think of the carefree days of childhood, or being young adults with so many possibilities ahead. But studies show something different: happiness increases with age.

While studies have shown that there is a peak in happiness around age 23, those same studies show that happiness and life satisfaction are greater after age 60 and especially into our 70s and 80s!

In fact, life becomes much more positive in our senior years. According to a study from the London School of Economics, the happiest age is 69. And, the news gets better: people’s happiness with their physical appearance peaks in their 70s and 80s. Even better, overall life satisfaction is highest between age 82 and 85.

Why are seniors happier?

Young and middle-aged adults often look ahead to the troubles of aging with concern. Yet, despite normal physical changes associated with aging, seniors are consistently happier and more satisfied than any other age group. This finding is consistent across multiple studies from around the world. With age comes wisdom, and with wisdom comes happiness.

Researchers offer many explanations for greater happiness and satisfaction among older people:

  1. Reduced negative emotions.
    A Stony Brook University study shows that stress, worry, and anger significantly decrease over our adult lives. These negative emotions peak in most people’s late twenties and early thirties. Then, they steadily decline into our senior years.
  2. Focusing on what is meaningful.
    During the householder years, people are focused on achievements in career and the day-to-day details of family responsibilities. After retirement, the focus shifts from achievement to enjoyment. Seniors are generally more appreciative of the “little things.”
    It is also suggested that with age, people become more aware of time and shift their focus to what is meaningful and enriching, rather than the busyness of day-to-day tasks.
  3. Optimism and Trust.
    Seniors are, overall, more optimistic than younger adults. A Buffalo University and Northwestern University study finds that happiness in seniors also is correlated with becoming more trusting. Study coauthor Claudia Hasse suggests, “We know that older people are more likely to look at the bright side of things. As we age, we may be more likely to see the best in other people and forgive the little letdowns that got us so wary when we were younger.”


Learn From Seniors: Three Ways To Increase Happiness Now

Here’s how we can learn from the seniors in our lives and start increasing our own happiness:

  1. Take steps to reduce stress, worry, and anger now. Even when retirement is still some time away, there are ways to slow down now.
  2. Focus on what is meaningful.
    • Minimize distractions while with family and friends. Designate special phone-free times.
    • Give senior loved ones the gift of your time. Even if it’s for a quick cup of coffee or running an errand together, take time to connect.
  3. Grow your optimism. Optimism is something you can practice!
    • Smile! Even a “fake” smile has been shown to boost mood.
    • Take a moment at the end of the day to jot down three positive things happened, no matter how small.
    • Optimism is contagious. Share the positivity, especially with the special seniors in your life!

FountainView at College Road is a glatt kosher senior living community in Rockland County, NY.

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