Research shows baby boomers do not embrace getting old and see no benefits of aging. But, the secret of healthy aging is to focus on the benefits of getting older.
The most thorough research study ever conducted in the United States shows that the older we get, the happier we are.
Some say that baby boomers aren’t as happy as everyone else.
Before we jump into the baby boomer research and the reasons we should embrace aging, let’s chew on a quip:
“You aim for what you want and if you don’t get it, you don’t get it. But if you don’t aim, you don’t get anything.” ~ Francine Prose.
What are you aiming for in life? Is there a gap between your expectations and your reality? Therein lies the secret of happiness. It’s not necessarily your age that counts – it’s how your reality lives up to your expectations.
Here are several benefits of getting older, why baby boomers aren’t happy, and some wise words from Dr Walter Bortz II, a 77 year old Stanford University Professor of Medicine and author of Living Longer for Dummies.
Baby boomers aren’t happy, compared to other generations
Baby boomers aren’t as happy as the other generations, reports Yang Yang, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago. Her comprehensive study of happiness was published in the April 2008 issue of the American Sociological Review. Yang also found that African Americans are less happy than whites, men are less happy than women, and happiness levels rise and fall between eras.
Yang’s conclusions stem from “the gold standard of happiness research – responses to questions about contentment with overall life gathered in the General Social Survey of the National Opinion Research Center.” This survey asked a cross section of Americans: “Taken all together, how would you say things are these days-would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?” Answers were provided in face-to-face interviews of population samples ranging from 1,500 to 3,000 people.
Baby boomers have unreasonable expectations
Why are baby boomers less happy than others?
“…[that] generation as a group was so large, and their expectations were so great, that not everyone in the group could get what [they] wanted as they aged, due to competition for opportunities,” says Yang. “This could lead to disappointment that could undermine happiness.”
Part of “unreasonable expectations” is not knowing what you really want out of life. If you’re wrestling with life, read What Makes Life Meaningful? Pull Up a Chair and Grab a Beer.
The Benefits of Aging
Healthy aging brings positive psychological characteristics, such as higher self-integration and self-esteem, which could contribute to a better sense of well-being. Another reason to appreciate getting older is that access to health care resources becomes more equal as we get older, which makes us happy.
And finally, we all experience less social support due to the deaths of family and friends, which equalizes our happiness levels.
How do the 70 year olds feel about aging? It depends who you ask. Dr Walter Bortz II is a 77 year old Stanford University Professor of Medicine and author of Living Longer for Dummies. He says age is a self-fulfilling prophecy: the single most important step in happily living to be a hundred years old is your beliefs.
“The benefit of getting older is that your judgment is more stable and you’re less likely to be rash,” he says. “You’ve been there, seen it, and are less likely to be surprised. I’m proud that the new 70 is what 40 used to be.”
Have you experienced any benefits of aging…or are you an unhappy baby boomer?