Help Aging Parents: Happiness

A former colleague who retired shortly after I began my counseling career has been a mentor and good friend over many decades.  In her mid-80’s, she is both an aging parent and a parent who has aged well.  A former revered English teacher, she reads widely, writes beautifully, and offers blog ideas from time to time.

On a day when Japan is mired in devastation from the earthquake, the northwest is being pounded by heavy rains, parts of New Jersey are still under feet of water, and a terrible bus accident has closed a highway near me, my friend’s contribution, “HAPPINESS MAY COME WITH AGE” (June 1, 2010 NY Times Science Section), seems like an uplifting theme–especially because the subject is old/older people.

While “aging” and “growing old” usually connote a not-to-be-looked-forward-to, less-happy-than-younger-people stage of life, the results of a Gallup poll’s survey seem to fly in the face of this reality.  The Times article reports that the poll’s 2008 telephone survey of 340,000 people age 18-85 found 85-year-olds are happier than 50-year-olds!

My friend emails me this link.  Check it out.  Note the findings have the respect of other researchers.

Definitely it’s food for thought as we try to understand and help aging parents and relate to older people in general.  Now I wonder–Can we take heart in the fact that “stress declines from age 22 onward, reaching its lowest point at 85” and “worry stays fairly steady until 50, then sharply drops off?” And what about the other findings? This recent research is something to keep in mind as we try to help parents age well–AND also think about ourselves.