We’re not gonna lie: Sometimes, when we look too far ahead, we’re not excited by our prospects. Creaking knees, wrinkles, and (horror of horrors) saggy, wide hips threaten to rob us of all joy when we enter old age. But researchers say that the happiest days are still to come — in our 80s, as a matter of fact. Lewis Wolpert, professor of biology at University College London, told The Telegraph that “from the mid-forties, people tend to become ever more cheerful and optimistic, perhaps reaching a maximum in their late seventies or eighties.” And a study published by the American National Academy of Sciences based on a survey of 341,000 people says the same thing.
As Max Read points out on Gawker, the research details are murky, and this is just the kind of headline that would please The Telegraph‘s older-than-average readership. But unlike Read, who seems to think that octeganarians’ improved outlook “may be because they are that much closer to shuffling, as they say, off this mortal coil,” I think there’s more to the study than a couple of snarky jokes.
Western culture still glorifies youth, and it’s not just media and entertainment that make growing up seem like nothing but bad news. Study upon study seems to indicate that the lives we were taught to pursue (job, marriage, kids) are a total bust — we’d be better off continuing to live like we’re 20! But even if surveys prove that motherhood, careers, and relationships stress out the average 40-year-old more than they bring her bliss, most of them don’t bother to ask how those life choices pan out in the long term. This study seems to say: “Even though you hate your boss and your baby right now, when you’re 80, it’ll be all good.” That’s much better than believing that everything goes downhill after you start your first job, no?
The Telegraph also points out that, while television and movies are stuck fawning over 18-year olds and casting mature women as old hags, society has mad certain strides that benefit the elderly. Andrew Steptoe, professor of psychology at University College London, points out that elderly people enjoy better health and more opportunities for secure income, which he says are “very important” in old age (I’d say they’re pretty important at any age). And I think that’s one of the best things to take away: Despite current, shall we say, “issues” with our economy and health care system, we still have the ability to exercise, eat reasonably healthy foods, and live to a ripe old age. So why not make the most of it, and hope that when we’re 85, we’ll be healthy enough to enjoy all that contentment that’s headed our way.
(Photo: Advanced Style)