It doesn’t seem likely, does it? “Old age” is supposed to equate with bad stuff — failing health, failing brain power, increased isolation and dependency…you know the list. So how come the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago found that almost 40% of Americans aged 65-plus considered themselves to be “very happy” compared to only 33% of those in the 35-49 age bracket?
Researchers appear to have identified a “happiness U-curve” — satisfaction with life actually drops for the first few decades of adulthood, bottoming out in the late 40s or early 50s, and then reversing and increasing with age.
And it isn’t just an American thing. In one survey, this U-curve was found in 55 countries out of 80; in another survey, in 80 countries out of 149.
Robert J. Samuelson has an excellent and thought-provoking article about this in the Washington Post. He quotes the late write Donald Richie: “Midlife crisis begins sometime in your 40s, when you look at your life and think, Is this all? And it ends about 10 years later, when you look at your life again and think, Actually, this is pretty good.”
You can read the article here. It’s well worth it.