This question is very intriguing as there is no straight answer. According to social gerontologists like us, there is no reason to be unhappy and lonely in old age provided you plan a bit early to be ‘social’. There is a myth in the society that elders are all grumpy and adamant. It is not true. The survey published by the Office for National Statistics, UK(ONS) shows that seniors tend to be happier rather than more miserable than younger people. But looking at ONS data in more depth reveals an even more interesting pattern
Due to many ifs and buts early in life and the decade between ages 40 to 50, people score progressively lower in measures of happiness on average. As adults reach middle age they often take on additional job and family responsibilities and can be increasingly troubled by job insecurity and the career uncertainties, as well as by childcare and commitments to parents. Conflicts between these high demanding roles can be a real stressor in these years, and at times, earnings can increasingly fail to meet people’s needs. This trend reverses after the middle years so that the average happiness increases steadily, until it levels off when people are about 70.
The survey mentioned above, generate averages from different people with different health conditions, and we cannot assume that all people will be categorised along the ‘average’ route. Longitudinal research into happiness of an elderly person has not yet been possible, and research has not directly indicated that one variable – age – is causally determining the other – happiness. It is true age contributes in some way to positive or negative feelings, but the chronological years alone cannot be the direct reason for unhappiness. So we need to look for other, possibly causative, factors which may change with age especially finance and health.
The above mentioned factors alongside other aspects of a person’s ‘environment’, can mask the happiness in middle age. But in general, happiness quotient improves steadily after that phase. The new found happiness is because people move on to different stages of life, where demands on their time and money, experienced uncertainty and other negative features tend to decline. As children grow up, job and other activities become established and care-dependent relatives pass away, people’s happiness on average increases.
As social gerontologists, we have a different take on this. Unhappiness is your own making and nobody to blame for the misery. Feelings are not exclusively determined by what happens to you – they also depend on how you respond to your overall situation. Staying ‘social’ is probably one of the most important things you can do as a senior for several reasons.
We have seen many elderly people socially active even at the ‘very old’ ages. The moment you start socialising, your personality changes to more accommodating, cheerful, affable, and friendly. These qualities will certainly make you more ‘popular’ in your community. When the involvement with the community increases, you have no room for unhappiness or depression. The same can be said about the hobbies. Good social life and pursuing a hobby can be of great help to many elders in achieving their full potential thereby a positive outlook to life itself.
Here are some tips that helps you bring cheerfulness and contentment to your life.
- Get involved with a charity and give back to society
- Join a social club, like Rotary Club
- Be a part of a special interest group like Antakshari, music or biking
- Involved with the church or temple activities to nurture spirituality
- Indulge in hobbies that excite you
- Join a gym or engage in physical activities like tennis, shuttle or golfing
- Start gardening
- Try getting a pet
- If healthy, start travelling and explore
- Do not stay always with people of your age, have a variety of people around you young and old
Elderly people complain life has no charm and they hate monotonous existence. As features and events in your life become increasingly familiar they tend to generate less intense emotions, perhaps contributing to a gradual decrease in happiness with increasing years. Old age can be the best time of your life if you use your head intelligently.