Older age = more wisdom, happiness

In a youth-oriented culture like that of the United States, growing older may not appear appealing to many. But recent research suggests that growing older leads to more wisdom and increased levels of happiness:

Contrary to largely gloomy cultural perceptions, growing old brings some benefits, notably emotional and cognitive stability. Laura Carstensen, a Stanford social psychologist, calls this the “well-being paradox.” Although adults older than 65 face challenges to body and brain, the 70s and 80s also bring an abundance of social and emotional knowledge, qualities scientists are beginning to define as wisdom. As Carstensen and another social psychologist, Fredda Blanchard-Fields of the Georgia Institute of Technology, have shown, adults gain a toolbox of social and emotional instincts as they age. According to Blanchard-Fields, seniors acquire a feel, an enhanced sense of knowing right from wrong, and therefore a way to make sound life decisions.

That may help explain the finding that old age correlates with happiness. A study published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found a U-shaped relationship between happiness and age: Adults were happiest in youth and again in their 70s and early 80s, and least happy in middle age. A 2007 University of Chicago study similarly concluded that rates of happiness — “the degree to which a person evaluates the overall quality of his present life positively” — crept upward from age 65 to 85 and beyond, in both sexes.

These are interesting findings. Now how could American culture go about showing and sharing these benefits of growing old? Wisdom, in particular, might be a challenge to portray in commercial advertisements.

Also, there is an interesting discussion in the article about how to define and measure “wisdom.”

0 thoughts on “Older age = more wisdom, happiness

  1. Pingback: What to do with those extra years of life | Legally Sociable

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