Following on from our last article which showed recent research that societal attitudes to elderly people could affect how people perceived the onset of retirement and the advancement of years to the extent that it affected their health in a negative way. I posed the question – how do you think Irish society acts towards older people?
Interestingly, this article in today’s Irish Examiner suggests that people over 65 are the happiest in the whole of Ireland. Does this mean that our society has a positive attitude towards age and treats older people with the respect they deserve? I hope so.
Apparently, we are fairly content when we are young before we have the worries of various commitments on our shoulders. The song ‘if you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands’ that is sung with toddlers always makes me smile – it seems so simple to be happy when playing with young children. Our happiness dips in our 30s, 40s and 50s due to work and financial commitments and stresses. However, it is in our 60s when our happiness increases again, when worries ebb away. Interestingly, those living in rural areas, with children and for whom religion is a part of their daily lives, are happiest of all.
So, what makes us so happy once we reach 65? According to this research, it is due to:
- Ordinary Experiences: When we are younger, we use extraordinary experiences as goals or fulfilment. As we get older, we realise that the ordinary and often mundane experiences are more valuable. It was noted that younger people tended to report more extraordinary happenings in facebook updates (when showing friends how happy and positive they are) whereas older people tended to update with more ordinary experiences. In the film, The Bucket List, as two men with terminal illnesses head off to do wild and exciting things, they eventually realise that happiness is where their home and family are, doing ordinary family things.
- Sharing Experiences: Maybe it is because we become ’empty nesters’ but having other people around to share experiences with tends to make us happier when we are older – whether it is enjoying a board game, talking about a film or eating out, the shared experience adds to the enjoyment.
- Flaw in Material Possession: Apparently we don’t rate material possession as making us happy once we reach our 60s. When we once viewed possessions such as a new car or a home to be something to work towards because they would make us happy, we realise that it is the experience that makes us most content. It is the journey rather than the goal that is most enjoyed.
- Acceptance: As we get older, we accept who we are and what we have instead of constantly striving for something more. We are satisfied with what we have.
Looking back over your life, at what age were you happiest? Do you think your most content years are still to come?