Few relish the thought of getting older. What is there to look forward to? Everything we hear about it is accompanied by the word “decline”—in energy, fitness, memory, appearance… and on and on and on. It’s a slippery slope that seems to begin with a gray hair and ends, well, you know where.
There’s a poem called the “Golden Years” floating around the internet that sums up our feelings:
I cannot see. I cannot pee. I cannot chew. I cannot screw. Oh my god, what can I do?
My memory shrinks. My hearing stinks. No sense of smell. I look like hell. My mood is bad-can you tell?
My body’s drooping. Have trouble pooping. The Golden Years. Have come at last. The Golden Years. Can kiss my ass.
The good news is that the Golden Years are not as grim as this poem suggests (and to debunk another myth, “Golden Years” is not written by Dr. Seuss, as the internet would suggest.).
In fact, findings from a new study show the opposite: that people get happier and that life satisfaction increases with age regardless of physical and cognitive function. According to lead author Dilip Jeste MD, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences and Director of the Center on Healthy Aging at UC San Diego, the older we get, the better we learn:
…not to sweat the little things. And a lot of previously big things become little.
Older people are better at filtering out the noise and focusing more on what matters. Dr. Jeste explains:
We become wise. Peer pressure loses its sting. Better decision-making, more control of emotions, doing things that are not just for yourself, knowing oneself better, being more studious and yet more decisive.
Keep this in mind on your next birthday. Graying and grinning go hand in hand.
I wish you all the best,
Dr. Samantha Boardman