The most pessimistic about advancing years, in a survey by an American discount club for seniors, were young adults, while the most contented were the older group. On every aspect of ageing, the young ones were consistently gloomier than the older adults. The young ones were also the least satisfied with their lives.
It confirms a growing body of research showing that old age is a contented, even joyful time! You feel better when you’re older. Study after study reveals that older people are generally happier, more satisfied, less depressed and anxious, and less stressed than younger respondents. Improved mental health in old age could be due to the wisdom people acquire as they grow older, say researchers. It’s what the Bible refers to as ‘proven character’ (Romans 5: 4-6). Psychologist James Hillman wrote “let us entertain the idea that character requires the additional years and that the long last of life is forced upon us neither by genes nor by conservational medicine nor by societal collusion. The last years conform and fulfil character.” [ii]
An international authority on geriatric medicine and eldercare, Dr William H Thomas, said, ‘I endorse ageing – because it is ageing that is going to save us.’[i] He sees older people as the elders of society, the balancing factor and the glue that holds it together.
Professor Laura Carstensen, Professor of Psychology and Professor in Public Policy at Stanford University, sees old age as being an enjoyable time. She said, ‘Older people are more positive in their outlook and less inclined to negativity, have increased knowledge and expertise, are more given to reconciliation than confrontation, and have better balanced emotional lives.’
Psychologist Arthur Stone (University Southern California) said “There’s lots of speculation about why older people are happier and having better moods even when their cognitive and physical health is in decline, but we still don’t have anything that fully explains what is going on,” he said. “It’s a big puzzle, and an important puzzle.”
But it’s only a puzzle if you don’t know that God deliberately designed old age, with special purposes for older people. He promised long life as a blessing (Psalm 96:16).
Living to old age creates the qualities that God intended to benefit the rest of society: those that psychologist Laura Carstensen and Dr William Thomas (and others) say must be recognised and ‘released’ for the benefit of us all. With contentment, wisdom, better emotional balance and more, it’s good for individuals, too!
The keys to an effective, purpose filled old age are described in Chapter 7 of the new book, ‘What’s Age Got To Do with It?’. Available from https://www.pilgrimsfriend.org.uk/shop/whats-age-got-to-do-with-it, or Eden Books online, or Amazon.
[ii] The Force of Character and the Lasting Life, 1999