Older Americans are happier with their lot in life than many younger cohorts, according to survey results released by AARP this week.
The “Second Half of Life Study” surveyed 2,500 people from age 18 into their 90s. It was carried out by National Geographic and AARP in January 2022 to explore how Americans view aging. A second part of the study involved 30-minute follow-up interviews with 25 adults 40 and older.
“Happiness in older age isn’t about wealth, beauty, or any of the other standards typically associated with youth-driven pop culture,” the study authors wrote on AARP. “As people age, an optimism and contentment emerge in parallel with an alignment of expectations and realities.”
While many Americans may associate the beginning of a decline in satisfaction with life with their 60s — as people approach retirement age — the survey found one measure that suggests it is much later today.
In the survey, 70% of people 80 and over said they would be likely to take a “longevity” pill that extended their life by 10 years — even if it did not slow down the aging process. But that’s actually the low point:
|Age||Percent likely to take “longevity pill”|
Even without a magic pill, taking care of your health can impact your lifespan, and, according to the World Health Organization, people worldwide are living longer.
“Evidence suggests that the proportion of life in good health has remained broadly constant, implying that the additional years are in poor health,” WHO reported. “If people can experience these extra years of life in good health and if they live in a supportive environment, their ability to do the things they value will be little different from that of a younger person.”
That’s borne out by the survey findings, with 49% of those 70 and up reporting their overall health as “excellent” or “very good.” While that is slightly less than a majority, it is higher than any of the younger cohorts — with only 37% of those 40-49 reporting their health as “excellent” or “very good.” This may be a matter of differing expectations of what is good health.
“Even if they have health issues, they’re really worried about: Can I still move? Am I still mentally sharp? Can I still connect with and see my family?” said Debra Whitman, chief public policy officer for AARP.
With the possibility of a recession and rising inflation driving headlines, it would be expected that those living on a fixed income would be more concerned about their financial situation — but again, the survey found the opposite.
Those 80 years and older were twice as likely (52%) to rate their situation as “excellent” or “very good” as those 40-49 (25%).
|Age Group||Financial situation “Excellent” or “Very Good”|
According to AARP, “the people in the study with the most real-life aging experience to draw on — those 85 and up — report that in almost every important category, life worked out just fine. Up to 90 percent say so about meaningful relationships, living arrangements, mental sharpness, finances and mobility.”
“Aging is aging. It’s something that happens. It can be good if you have a right attitude,” study participant Ruth, who is in her 90s, said.
“It can be terrible if you resent it and think of all the aches and pains you acquire, which you didn’t used to have.”
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