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Here's to the Happy Old People

BY Danielle Bean

| Posted 5/21/10 at 8:49 AM

 

I always threaten my kids by telling them I plan to be one of those cranky, demanding old ladies.

I used to work in a nursing home—believe me when I tell you that I know about cranky, demanding old ladies.

But I know about happy ones too.

A recent study shows that happy old people are more common than our modern world would have us think. I mean, aren’t youth and beauty everything? Apparently not.

“Among key findings and conclusions:

—About 35% of respondents reported a lot of worry through age 50.
—Feelings of well-being may improve when children leave home because of reduced family conflict and fewer worrisome concerns.
—People worry less about money and about having to pay for health care as they age.
—Women scored higher than men on a measure of overall well-being, but not on a happiness score or one gauging enjoyment of life.

So why are older people on average happier and less stressed than younger people? The authors say it may be as simple as this—with age comes increased wisdom and emotional intelligence.”

I can buy that. Of course it’s impossible to make generalizations when it comes things as complicated as “happiness” and a “state of well-being.” But even in my (almost) 38 years I have experienced the peace of mind and heart that can come from finally getting comfortable in your own skin and gaining confidence in your own decisions.

I think moms are particularly vulnerable to the kind of anxiety and unhappiness that comes from lacking confidence in their own abilities. So many young moms I know (and I did it too) look for “experts” to tell them how to do things “right” but fail to recognize that when it comes what’s best for their children, they are the experts.

With age and experience comes an increased ability to determine what matters and—perhaps even more importantly—what does not. I meet up with my young mom self in my mind sometimes, and she never fails to make me laugh. What was all that fretting about sleep routines and sanitizing pacifiers?

In lots of ways, I’m still figuring this motherhood thing out, but I have enough experience to know that life is good on the other side of this letting other people’s expectations and opinions make you crazy.

Here’s to you, happy old people! I can’t wait to get all the way there.