Despite society’s obsession with youth, countless studies show that seniors are generally happier and more satisfied with their lives compared to younger adults. Seniors in their 80’s and 90’s experienced unimaginable hardships during their lifetimes such as WWII and the Great Depression, yet they show higher levels of happiness and well-being.
Barbara, a finalist of the 2017 Remarkable Residents program, is an example of a senior who is thriving in her later years. She recounts dealing with a difficult childhood which led her to develop a crippling social phobia. At 50 years old, Barbara gained the courage to begin living her life to the fullest. She started acting and singing. She also dared to accomplish the items on her personal Bucket List. Always a volunteer, Barbara continues to give back to her community to this day.
Inspired by residents like Barbara, here are five ways seniors can maximize their happiness and well-being:
Regardless of age, social connection is a key factor affecting a person’s overall happiness and well-being. Research from the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal suggests that seniors are most at risk of social isolation because their children and grandchildren may have moved away, widowhood and shrinking social networks. Across various studies, research shows people with more or better social relationships live longer and healthier.
A study published in The Journal of Gerontology shows that older adults who volunteer, have more happiness and well-being. Seniors can participate in service geared towards their individual abilities and interests. Helping others generates a sense of purpose and accomplishment, resulting in increased life satisfaction.
Learning a new skill involves active engagement and uses working memory, long-term memory and other cognitive functions. A study published in The Journal of Psychological Science found that unfamiliar, mentally challenging tasks provide older adults the most mental and social stimulation. Trying new activities such as painting or woodworking can improve mental sharpness and self-confidence.
The McMaster Optimal Aging Portal highlights that one of the important benefits of exercise is how it improves mood and a sense of wellbeing. Exercise causes the body to release “feel good” hormones called endorphins, which combat stress. Aside from the mental benefits, a well-balanced exercise routine may help seniors improve mobility. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting an exercise program.
The American Psychological Association posts studies about how older people are better at regulating their emotions compared to younger people. This debunks the perception that aging equates to negative outlooks on life. The authors of the study say that “With age, people place increasingly more value on emotionally meaningful goals and thus invest more cognitive and behavioral resources in obtaining them.”