This holds especially true when you are talking about older people. Over the centuries, an idea has sprung up that people who reach a great number of years on the planet get crotchety, unhappy, sad, and lonely.
The misery myth is a firmly held belief by many. Part of that idea might have arisen because prior to the middle of the 20th Century life was much harder, and those few that survived into their later years were worn down by the daily struggles for existence.
Today, however, study after study is showing that the truth is actually the opposite of the myth - in terms of emotions, older people are actually experiencing their best days in later life.
Here are some important findings in what is being termed the Paradox of Aging:
- mental health generally improves with age. Older people as a group suffer less from anxiety and depression than their younger counterparts.
- older people experience fewer negative emotions than people in their 20s and 30s.
- when negative feelings do arise, older people don't linger on them the way most younger people do.
- as we get into our senior years, our perspective changes and we begin to alter our evaluation what is worth our time, attention, worry, and wrath and simple pleasures expand in importance
- while older people do narrow their social circle to just their most valued friends and family, this reduction makes them say they are more satisfied with their relationships.
- older couples report they argue less, either because they have resolved their most troubling differences or learned to work around them.
- grandparenting, which combines many of the joys of being around children you love without the responsibility for their constan care, is another source of satisfaction often cited.
- older people worry less about what others think about them and instead are more selective about whose opinions really matter to them.
In her 30 years of studying aging, psychologist Laura Carstenstein, director of the Stanford Center on Longevitiy, says these positives mirror her findings.
"That is not to say that old age is an epoch of unrelenting warmth and good cheer. it has its share of hardships and disappointments," Carstestein says in her book A Long Bright Future. "It's just by the time people get to their later years, they're more attuned to the sweetness of life than to its bitterness."