“More years were aded to average life expectancy in the 20th century than all years added across all prior millennia of human evolution. In the blink of an eye we nearly doubled the length of time that we’re living. So if you ever feel that you don’t have this aging thing quite pegged, don’t kick yourself. It’s brand new.”
And that means we’re only now learning about what it means. Including the possibility that as we get older and older, we might grow happier and happier.
In this TED Talk video, psychologist Laura Carstensen shows research to support the theory of a happiness-age connection and talks about why we might develop a more positive outlook on the world as we age.
Unless we become old grouches.
Carstensen was part of a team that studied the changing emotional experiences of a group of 18- to 94-year-olds over a 10-year period. But not all researchers agree with her claim; a recent study of older men suggested that if you’re a male, contentment increases through age 70 and then takes a dive – though resources and life circumstances can influence this pattern. And even this study showed that how we respond to life’s curveballs – our attitude – plays a big role in how happy we remain even as our lives might actually grow more emotionally challenging.
But it’s not all on our shoulders. In her talk, Carstensen points to public and private investment. “What will happen to societies that are top heavy with older people? The numbers won’t determine the outcome. Culture will. If we invest in science and technology and find solutions for the real problems that older people face, and we capitalize on the very real strengths of older people, then added years of life can dramatically improve quality of life at all ages.”
Watch the video and share your perspective in the comments.