A popular conception of the elderly is that they’re often plagued by sadness, loneliness, a decline in cognitive ability, and enjoy a poorer quality of life than their younger counterparts. As the proportion of senior citizens in the global population is expected to spike dramatically in the coming years, such a dreary outlook may cause weariness over the prospect of growing old. Yet this popular conception may not be at all reliable, a review of several studies performed on the elderly has suggested that on the contrary, happiness tends to increase well into old age.
Taking a close look at a range of research initiatives working with senior citizens, the review found that the elderly are particularly well adapted to common challenges in mental well-being, often surpassing younger populations. The reviewers note that older adults are less prone to put much weight into the thoughts and opinions of others, whereas younger people may be heavily affected by criticism and peer judgment. The widespread realization among the elderly that life is drawing towards a close may also help account for an increased level of happiness, as the present is more fully embraced and enjoyed.
Though mental health concerns such as dementia and Alzheimer’s continue to be studied in the lab in search of a way to improve the quality of life of the elderly, basic emotional maturity and wisdom seem to be providing a generous –perhaps even an enviable– helping hand. While initiatives to provide the elderly with additional and more supportive care are crucial for helping seniors receive the attention and reverence they deserve, the review suggests that younger adults may, in turn, have something powerful to learn from their elders.
© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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