Who are the happiest people you know? If you think about it very long, you might conclude that an older person in your life is perhaps the happiest. Research has shown that the happiest people are generally older people and those in their 70s are the happiest of all.
So What Makes Older People Happy?
A Wall Street Journal article quotes a number of professors and scientists who have studied happiness. Karen Fingerman, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said that older people have a much better sense about what’s really important in life. Their friendships have deepened and creativity is more a part of their lives. The happiest people are the ones with good friends and a close family network. Love is perhaps the greatest gauge of happiness.
Now I don’t think any of us need a scientific study to believe that we do get wiser as we age, but there actually is scientific proof! With that wisdom comes the ability to work out problems and look at the challenges of life from different angles. Imagine that!
More Times for What Matters
Our older years often afford us more time to do what means the most to us. We can pursue our most passionate interests. We can spend more time with family and friends. We finally have the time to volunteer our services to worthy causes. We can travel more. A lot of us are more financially stable in our older years. We can even try a new career path and give it our all! Really, our older years are the time when the world is our oyster!
Happiness is Contagious
A Harvard study found that being happy usually means you surround yourself with happy people. Happiness was found to travel through people’s social network and families. Personally I think the older we get, the less tolerant we are of drama and those who carry it around. We find the people who really float our boats and when we are happy we spread that happiness to others. The Harvard study found that happiness not only has a positive effect on your friend, but your friend’s friends and their friends!
Having a Positive Outlook on Life
A Wall Street Journal survey found that people over 75 were the most likely to believe their lives had turned out better than they ever expected. As a journalist, I’ve had the privilege to interview hundreds of seniors and nearly all of them told me how grateful they were for their lives and for all their experiences. My own parents tell me quite often how blessed they feel to have a good home and enough money to pay bills and eat well. I have found older people to also be the most generous with their time and money. I think most believe it is more blessed to give than receive.
The “Thriving Categories”
Aspects of life that have a great deal to do with happiness according to the WSJ are purpose, social, financial, community and physical health. A survey found that people over 65 believed their lives were good in all these aspects more than younger people from age 18 on up!
The happy people I know are the ones who get up every morning and are excited about what they plan to do. They all live with purpose in their lives. They love getting things accomplished and find it makes life more interesting and more worthwhile. My father will turn 84 this year and he’s always happiest when he’s physically able to get out and work in the yard or finish a project. People born in the 1930s and earlier closely relate their ability to be productive with happiness.
Older people also said they were better with money, had a good social network of friends and family, and they also enjoyed where they lived — appreciated the community. While older people generally experience health problems, this survey said most said they had the physical ability to do the things that matter most. Now who could ask for more?