Friday, December 29, 2017

Happiness and the Oldest-Old

2017 has  been a bit of a wild ride, and I thought it would be good  to end the year on a happy news item. So, check out this article in the New York Times.

Want to Be Happy? Think Like an Old Person. is an update on a series that follows six New York elders who at the time of the first article were " over the age of 85, one of the fastest-growing age groups in America. The series of articles began the way most stories about older people do, with the fears and hardships of ...."  In this article, the author is examining happiness.  "Older people report higher levels of contentment or well-being than teenagers and young adults. The six elders put faces on this statistic. If they were not always gleeful, they were resilient and not paralyzed by the challenges that came their way. All had known loss and survived. None went to a job he did not like, coveted stuff she could not afford, brooded over a slight on the subway or lost sleep over events in the distant future. They set realistic goals. Only one said he was afraid to die."

This attitude, the article explains, has a name: "the paradox of old age: that as people’s minds and bodies decline, instead of feeling worse about their lives, they feel better. In memory tests, they recall positive images better than negative; under functional magnetic resonance imaging, their brains respond more mildly to stressful images than the brains of younger people."

Two of the six have died, and the updates on the remaining four show some ups, downs, adjustments, and changes.

So ends another year for four members of New York’s oldest old: not with a whimper, but with small joys to ease their aches. Each lost a little and moved a year closer to death, as we all did. But each welcomed another morning, the start of another year to come. All had beaten the odds just to get this far.

 Resilience and perseverance matters. 

Happy New Year

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