Do you ever feel like your age is catching up to you? I sure do! It seems to have really kicked in over the past ten years. I’ve had to get bifocals, and yet I still have to peer over the top of my glasses to see the fine print. (I thought that only happened when you got very old!) I’ve also noticed many more aches in my joints and spots on my skin. My arms look like they belong to an old lady! You may remember that I now have diabetes. After I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant with my daughter, they warned me that someday, when I was older, it would likely return. I guess that time is here…
So I’m excited to share some uplifting news about getting older. Yes, it’s likely that our physical health and mental abilities may worsen, but the good news is that our mood, sense of well-being, and ability to handle stress tends to improve as we age. Studies show that anxiety, worry, and anger all decrease with age. And other research has shown that older people seem to be more accepting of sadness. This may help to explain why older people are better than younger people at solving emotionally charged conflicts. Laura Carstensen, Professor of Psychology and founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, calls it the paradox of aging.
Laura’s studies have found that as we age, our perspective shifts. Instead of focusing on striving and achieving like many people in their 20s and 30s, older individuals (65+) tend to focus on savoring relationships and meaningful activities. One idea for this shift is that older people appreciate their mortality and recognize that their life is finite. They see their priorities more clearly and take less notice of trivial matters. They’re more open to reconciliation, and they’re better at savoring life.
I have to admit; this makes me more optimistic about getting older. It’s also a great motivator for me to shift my perspective so I can get better at savoring, forgiving, and finding more meaning now. How does reflecting on this information impact you?
- For a chart of age and wellbeing see http://www.businessinsider.com/age-people-are-happiest-2016-5
Tina Hallis, Ph.D., is a speaker, trainer, and founder of The Positive Edge, a company dedicated to teaching organizations and individuals the power of positivity to improve the quality of people’s work lives and the quality of company cultures.