Finding meaning and happiness with aging

Older adults report higher levels of happiness and well-being in their daily lives than younger adults, according to a Journal of Clinical Psychiatry study. Among adults ranging from 21 to 100, the researchers observed a striking trend: the older people were, the happier they felt.

Gerontologists call this the paradox of aging: as people experience a decline in cognitive skills or physical health, instead of feeling worse, they feel happier than when they were younger.

Older, but emotionally wiser

Seniors may be happier, on average, because of the wisdom they acquire through life experience, according to a Stanford University study in Psychology and Aging. As people age and time horizons grow shorter, they invest in what they see as most important. That’s typically meaningful relationships, and they attain greater satisfaction from investing in those relationships.

Emotional lives improve with age – a key to greater happiness as people get older, the researchers report. Aging is associated with more positive emotional well-being, greater emotional stability and more emotional depth. The study also revealed that people who experience positive emotions more frequently live longer than those who experience negative feelings more often.

Positive aging outlook promotes health

Did you know that how people think about aging affects their health?

A positive outlook on aging has been linked to lower risk of chronic disease and dementia, less isolation and loneliness, better handling of stress, and faster and better recovery from disability, reports Dalhousie University.

Individuals with positive self-perceptions of aging are more likely to engage in preventive health behaviours over time, according to Preventive Medicine. As a result, educating and encouraging people to develop a more positive view of aging could help increase healthy behaviours among seniors.

Purpose, meaning and successful aging

Creating personal meaning and purpose through different stages of life is also key to promoting health and successful aging, according to a Canadian Psychology study. These are a major source of life satisfaction and growth when facing disability or other losses that often accompany aging.

Commitment, optimism, and spiritual well-being are some common and effective ways for older adults to find and increase personal meaning and purpose, the study found. Reminiscence, which involves drawing lessons from past episodes to solve a current problem, or passing on wisdom from a lifetime of learning to the younger generation, is another meaning-enhancing strategy associated with successful aging.