Over 40: Can You Be Happy and Get Older?

Becky Roehrs

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Woman with arms spread out towards the sky, atop a mountainBy Mohamed_hassan/Pixabay

How can you get "older" but become happier? Isn't that an oxymoron?

I searched the web a while ago for "old women' but didn't find many articles.

  • I was disappointed
  • I’m looking forward to my 60s.
  • I guess I’m in the minority, but I’m stubborn. I want to change a few peoples' minds.

I’ll admit, that people say I look much younger than my age.

  • But to even the score, I’ve never dyed my hair, which is long and straight, with streaks of gray running through it.

I don’t wear make-up, do wear glasses, and haven't had elective surgery.

  • It’s not because I’m a hippie, though I sometimes look like one.
  • I’m lazy. It takes time to do all that crimping and what-not, and I like to get up and go in 15 minutes or less.

I do get looks, something along the lines of “what is she thinking, looking like that.” But one of the beautiful things about getting older is: often, you just don’t care.

“It’s this freedom that’s the key to becoming visible again. Not caring what others think is freeing. Expressing yourself any way you want is freeing. Having opinions, emotional wisdom, spiritual understanding…these things free you. And in freedom, we find power.”
Jane Tara, The Happy Endings Book Club

How can I not worry about how I look?

Well, in this society, it’s hard to avoid the obsession with how you look. But you can sure try.

Why am I looking to my 60's?

Well, I see it as a gift, a huge surprise I wasn’t expecting.

I was pretty self-destructive in my 20’s and assumed I’d be dead by 30.

Before 30, I’d already lost both my sisters.

  • So it was a tremendous shock the day I turned 30. It was the first time I looked seriously at my future and realized; there may be many days ahead.

What on earth was I going to do with the rest of my life?

I decided then and there that this was the only life I had.

If I didn’t do what was important to me now, I could be hit by a bus tomorrow.

  • Wouldn’t it be a waste to die miserably without doing something that I loved to do?

I decided that if I couldn’t be happy, at least I could cross a few things off my bucket list.

Have I been happy?

Definitely not. I was a wreck and miserable in my teens and twenties. In my thirties and forties, I immersed myself in unhappy relationships and family dysfunction extraordinaire.

  • Luckily, I’ve usually loved my job, and when I didn’t, I changed it, even if it meant going broke.

And for many years, I was with the love of my life, which I thought was a fairy tale that never came true.

So my question is, why would I get happier as I get older?

My track record isn’t promising. For decades, I struck out with my biological family and relationships. I fought depression and anxiety. I’ve been fortunate to be able to find work, often doing what I loved.

  • Sometimes I made money; sometimes, I didn't.
  • I gave up on finding a partner and ended up finding my soul mate.

I thought as I neared retirement, I’d obsess over all the trips I’d take.

  • But instead, I like spending time at home, with people I love.
  • I don't need to travel to add excitement to my life.

I’ve been on adventures that I had always wanted to do and many I’d never have thought of.

  • I’ve been hiking, rafting, rock climbing, sea-kayaking, and canoeing. I’ve camped all over the United States.

I’ve been on adventures that I had always wanted to do and many I’d never have thought of!

  • I’ve been hiking, rafting, rock climbing, sea-kayaking, and canoeing. I’ve camped all over the United States.

What’s impressive to me is that I'm getting more positive the older I get.

I like Gen-X'ers, Millenials, and Post-Millenials.

Frankly, they can be just as fun or more than people my age.

  • Some baby boomers spend an excessive amount of talking about their aches and pains or complaining about their relationships with their partners, parents, and children.

Sure I have physical ailments at times.

  • But I've also been in a great deal of physical and mental pain in the past, and I'm thankful for what I have now, today, this moment.

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Older couple hugging facing towards the oceanBy Anastasia Shuraeva/Pexels

Are Older people happier?

And I'm not unusual. The myth is, that once you get old, you're miserable, sick, and waiting to die.

  • It's not true.
  • But don't take my word for it.

In her Ted-Talk: Older people are happier, psychologist Laura Carstensen shared her research.

She found that as people get older, they become:

happier, more content, and have a more positive outlook on the world.”

Further, they're finding that older people have less stress, anger, and worry less than other ages. Woo-hoo!

What if you're poor? Can you be happy?

It depends on how you define happiness, and the research study. In the article Less money can mean more Scrooge-like pride, Paul Piff, lead author of a research study, said:

“Even in the absence of wealth, you can still extract all kinds of meaning and all kinds of happiness and all kinds of joy by reminding yourself and surrounding yourself with all the people you love.” — Paul Piff

Hmm, maybe you can be poor and happy, but what if you're ill?

Well, in the article Can you be Ill and Still Happy? They pointed out that a research study in the Journal of Happiness Studies (it exists), found:

“What reduced happiness most, it turned out, was not how ill people were (based on objective measures of health/disease, as opposed to self-reported health status), but rather how much their infirmities disrupted their daily functioning.”

So if you could still do what was important to you each day, or most days, you could be ill, even seriously ill, and happy.

  • I know this is true for at least a few people since I've known older people who live with numerous severe illnesses and chronic pain. They are delightful.

They get to do what they love.

  • They are walking, playing music, teaching, and growing plants.
  • They're spending quality time with their loved ones, playing with grandchildren or animals.

So why are you likely to be happier as you age?

In the article, "The aging paradox: The older we get, the happier we get," researchers are surmising that older people are handling life better. We know our time is limited.

  • Why get your panties in a twist about trivial things?
  • Who cares if your partner leaves their dirty underwear on the floor.
  • Or your partner reads an article to you (that you've already read)?

Instead, we enjoy the here and now.

We don't worry about what happened in the past or what might happen in the future.

  • So does that mean you should wait forty or fifty years until you finally get the chance to be happy? No, of course not.
  • But you don't need to spend your life dreading each of your birthdays or waste your time needlessly worrying about getting old and dying.

Due to medical and technological innovations over the last few decades, we're most likely going to live a very long time.

And we'll be happy and content.

The research of Dr. Dilip Jeste, the Director of the UC San Diego Center for Healthy Aging, found that:

Older age is “associated with higher levels of overall satisfaction, happiness and well-being, and lower levels of anxiety, depression and stress. The older the person, the better his or her mental health tended to be.” — Dr. Dilip Jeste

Dr. Jeste pointed out that:

"this is good news for young people, too; you have something to look forward to."

It sounds like we all have something to look forward to…

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I write about local events, politics, education, relationships, online dating, and humor. Sarcastic and silly. Loves coffee and canoeing. I've been a computer programmer, outdoor guide, and taught programming at Fortune 500s and community colleges. Now, I help folks teach online.

Cary, NC
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