…appiness of youth however, not only returned but was experienced at higher levels in subjects’ 70s. Researchers hypothesized that middle-age-misery was due to the overwhelming number of familial, professional, and financial demands during these years. Following a happiness dip in middle age, researchers concluded that we become more self-accepting, less ambitious and more mindful of living in the present moment (instead of the future) as we approach our 70s.
Last week, I was listening to a podcast interview of someone who wrote a book on this happiness theory. Early on in the interview, he mentioned that the “grumpy old person” idea was completely false and I almost turned the whole thing off (except I liked the women interviewing him). In my 40’s I am old enough to appreciate that life does seem to get better as we age. We are more self-assured, we know what we want, and we appreciate what we have more.
But what about regret? The life-gets-better idea has a lot to do with how good our life has been. If things did not turn out the way we hoped, or worse, if we can now recognize how our own actions hampered our dreams — well, does everyone really think that life gets better? That’s something that only the fulfilled can say, no?
Then there is the brain. I made a snarky comment to no one in reply to the no grumpy old folks comment that this guy must not have hit the sandwich time of life yet, or his parents declined well. My children lost 3 of 4 grandparents last year, and stroke and dementia had been wreaking havoc with their grandparents for 5–15 years. My father was in his 70’s and my husband’s parents in their 80’s and there was growing depression, anger, and violence each of which are all over the geriatric care literature. Grumpy was early onset for two of them and that back in their 60's.
The U-bend isn’t false, it is simply true for only a segment of the population, mainly those who had relatively comfortable and successful lives and were blessed with good health right up to the very end.