Believe it or Not, Getting Older Generally Means Getting Happier

A recent study on the initial months of the pandemic found that older adults were more resilient to the anxiety, depression, and stress-related mental health disorders characteristic of younger populations. While this finding sounds unlikely, a look at past research — and the happy, smiling faces of Golden West residents — affirms it shouldn’t be surprising.

A 2019 Gallup Global Emotions poll found that as they got older, people reported less overall life stress, and in his 2018 book The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50, Jonathan Rauch highlights a study that found people’s reported happiness levels began rising as they reached their 80s.

What is behind such remarkable resiliency, as Golden West residents have shown over this past year? Here are some reasons why we get progressively happier and experience less stress after we hit 50.

Our expectations adjust

Getting older can help us adjust our expectations for what we can achieve in our lives, and how happy those achievements will make us feel. Realizing that the time left to significantly change our lives is limited, we can choose to focus on the things that mean the most to us, whether it’s attending church, fly-fishing, volunteering in the community or playing with our grandchildren. In the coming years, knowing we are focusing solely on what makes us happy can be a reassuring feeling.

We gain a new perspective

Sociology professor Monika Ardelt defines wisdom in three parts: insight gained over time for living well; the ability to see events from a new perspective; and increased compassion for others. Getting older, we develop insight into what we personally need to achieve contentment, said Ardelt, and we also gain a better understanding of other people’s motivations and personalities, which allows us to feel more sympathy for them.

Our brains evolve

It may be surprising to learn that the human brain’s structure is not fixed and static. In fact, our brains can increase the number of neurons and alter the connections between them, a concept known as neuroplasticity. In Super Brain, physician and bestselling author Deepak Chopra writes that as they age, people can begin to power these biological processes on their own by thinking in a more mindful way; personally, Chopra uses yoga and meditation as his core mindfulness practices.

We avoid toxic people

Socioemotional selectivity theory states that as we age, we become more selective in how we spend our time and with whom. Younger people may spend considerable time and energy dealing with stressful people in their lives, but as we age, we realize we can be more selective about who we socialize with, and that we can remove ourselves from an uncomfortable situation, even if we may appear unfriendly.

Life changes can’t scare us

As youngsters, many of us imagine every life event as either a tragedy or a success. But over time, people tend to move away from this black-and-white thinking and begin to see that stressful change is part of life. Realizing this, we can change our way of thinking, start focusing on the present, and better manage our emotions as we navigate life changes.

With a robust social calendar, comfortable, affordable apartments and access to all that Boulder, Colorado has to offer, for residents at Golden West, getting older is synonymous with getting happier. Reach out and learn more about Golden West today! Call us at (303) 444-3967 or schedule a tour online.