Below are excerpts from a most interesting article that caught my eye this morning. Click on the title below for the full article.But first I am in the middle of a storm here so I had to put in a photo taken off my balcony. We don’t get a lot of tornadoes here, at least not in Kitchener, but the warning applied right here.
The most threatening part of the storm moved through fairly quickly followed by rain, thunder and hail storms. We could use a good few hours of rain but I am not sure that will happen, It’s still a dark and stormy night here but a normal one. The Kind I like.
So what got me so excited about the article below? You probably already know Judith, my partner here at AWA, and I fully embrace not embracing the ‘expected’ idea of aging.
This article says pretty much how I feel. And it expresses it better than I could. I do hope you will enjoy it.
Aging can be an uphill slope, with the right perspective.
“Stop telling people in their 20s that these are the best years of their lives. They’re not.”
That’s straight from an expert with decades of psychological research focused on aging—so you can trust her that you haven’t left your best years behind. Laura Carstensen, Ph.D. is the founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, where she studies motivational and emotional changes that occur with age and the influence these changes have on the way we process information.
1. The ‘work, then retire’ model needs serious rethinking
People are living longer than ever—and that means we need a new life map, Carstensen says.
A 100-year-long life may soon be common, but our society isn’t set up for it. “The social institutions, economic policies, and social norms that evolved when people lived for half as long are no longer up to the task,” she explains. “The resulting narrative around an ‘aging society’ seems to convey only a crisis, ignoring obvious opportunities to redesign those institutions, practices, and norms and bring them into sync with the health, social, and financial needs of 100-year lives.”
One problem, as she sees it, is this: “When we are working, we are working too hard, and then when we’re retired, we’re retired too hard. Working for 60-80 hours a week isn’t good for anybody and retiring for 30 years isn’t good for anybody.”
In her research, Carstensen found that across the board, people were not as cognitively sharp after they retired as they were when they were working, except for one group of people: Those who were in high-complexity jobs who retired for one year and then went back to work in some capacity. These people were in better cognitive shape than those who had continued to work steadily. Instead of working full-time for 40 years and then retiring completely, Carstensen proposes that “we need breaks…we could take these thirty years [of “retirement”] and put them anywhere we want.”
2. Seeking happiness is no way to live
Carstensen is not a fan of what she calls a “happiness agenda” that’s sprouted up in recent years—it puts too much pressure on meeting an unrealistic goal, and can be surprisingly harmful to mental health: “Seeking happiness is almost doomed to fail,” she says.
“It’s constantly hurting people when we tell them they should be happy and making happiness a goal,” says Carstensen. She adds that there’s also an expectation for partners to make you happy and “if they don’t make you happy, you leave them, and that really makes you unhappy.”
The real key to happiness is learning to process mixed emotions. According to her research, Carstensen says “the richest emotional states we have are the ones with mixed emotions.” People at older age are much better equipped to do this than younger people. They can appreciate the whole experience for what it is, all the good and all the bad and everything in between. As we age, we can feel things such as bittersweetness with a much higher level of understanding.
3. Instead of looking to the future, live in the present
It’s easier said than done. We spend all our formative years thinking about our futures, and the present tends to pass by without our noticing. But living in the moment is an essential part of what makes older people feel content, Carstesen says. Older people tend to focus on and remember more positive than negative information, something she calls the positivity effect.
In her own research, Carstensen has learned that older people have a much easier time living in the moment. This is likely because as we get older, we realize that time is running out eventually, and there isn’t a long future ahead of us to plan for. Therefore, we pay more attention to things as they happen and we struggle much less with being in the present.
Wherever you are in life, though, you can “enjoy the moment you’re in and recognize it while you have it,” says Carstensen.
4. Invest less in the idea of wisdom, more in creativity
The idea of being wise from all your years of life experience is pushed on old people—but there isn’t actually any proof that older generations are wiser than young ones!
“It is true that older people solve hotly charged conflicts better than young people,” according to Carstensen. But this is “less about age and more about perspective and the distance from the event…You sound wise when you say ‘when I was in my 20s or 30s I thought this’ but it’s dependent on the distance from you being that age, not how old you are today.”
Carstensen’s research shows that “when it comes to solving personal problems, new problems, older people don’t do any better than younger people.” This makes sense. If you thought about the same problem for 50 years, of course you would have an easier time solving the issue than when you had first experienced it. New problems are just as hard for us to solve at any age.
So, now here at North of 43 I am off to watch the storm. A very fine activity. When my boys were young we would gather under shelter and blankets and watch. Ver moving.