Stay happy and live long

Stay Happy Live LongPharrell Williams sings “Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth (cause I’m happy).”

The mega-hit had everyone clapping and tapping their feet, but seniors may have been clapping the loudest.
According to a survey by the Brookings Institution, those aged 63-79 scored the highest on the Richter scale of happiness. They were deemed happier than even those in their 20s and 30s.

Dilip Jeste, a senior professor of psychiatry at UC San Diego, found in 2016 that older people report higher levels of overall satisfaction, happiness and well-being along with lower levels of anxiety, depression and stress.

Understanding happiness

There has been a dramatic upsurge in interest in happiness and the pursuit of it through books like Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project.” Her study of personal happiness and how to attain it spent two years on the New York Times’ bestseller list. Meanwhile, well-known psychologist Martin Seligman is spearheading a new interest in the psychology of happiness.

Researchers say there are certain components that help make up a happy life in the senior years. Although a popular cultural norm in the United States considers the road to happiness paved with the right job, car, home or lots of money, author and psychologist Stephen Post disagrees. In a 2005 survey, he noted that while people in the United States and the United Kingdom are wealthier than previous generations, they are no happier as a result.

In fact, he suggests that acts of kindness might be more beneficial in terms of positive effect.

A sense of purpose also ranks highly for helping people feel glad. And people who feel happy and satisfied live longer. Having work that you love or volunteering scored big with contented seniors, who garnished more satisfaction from it than younger counterparts.

Time to get social

Social interactions are another thing that can help seniors keep smiling. Having social interactions and maintaining meaningful relationships puts people way up on that happiness Richter scale.

Having ties that build trust, connection and participation are even more important for seniors, because both health and social capital tend to decline as we age. In one study, the rate of cognitive decline was 70 percent less in people with frequent social contact than those with low social activity.

Interactions with others on a daily basis help reduce loneliness in the elderly. Those with an active network of friends and confidents live longer than even those who have children and grandkids.

The more anniversaries we celebrate, the better. Older adults with good marriages have fewer problems in their relationships and more positive feelings about them than younger people do. A satisfying marriage helps people maintain their happiness levels even when health problems get them down.

Being grateful for what we have in our lives also can help create a positive attitude. Grateful people have been shown to be more positive, with lower instances of depression and stress.

How seniors see and experience happiness affects how happy they are. When we are young and believe that we have a long future ahead of us, we prefer extraordinary experiences. When we are older and believe our time is limited, we put more value on ordinary experiences in our daily lives – thereby achieving daily happiness.

Maggie Lennon