Why, beyond middle age, people get happier as they get older
Age and happiness
Dec 16th 2010 | from PRINT EDITION
ASK people how they feel about getting older, and they will probably reply in the same vein as Maurice Chevalier: “Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.” Stiffening joints, weakening muscles, fading eyesight and the clouding of memory, coupled with the modern world’s careless contempt for the old, seem a fearful prospect—better than death, perhaps, but not much. Yet mankind is wrong to dread ageing. Life is not a long slow decline from sunlit uplands towards the valley of death. It is, rather, a U-bend.
When people start out on adult life, they are, on average, pretty cheerful. Things go downhill from youth to middle age until they reach a nadir commonly known as the mid-life crisis. So far, so familiar. The surprising part happens after that. Although as people move towards old age they lose things they treasure—vitality, mental sharpness and looks—they also gain what people spend their lives pursuing: happiness.
Without any great philosophical backing, I had set upon a path in which personal happiness always played a part. Perhaps the fact that being told as a child that I was a happy child set the tone. Soon the restrictive life in Australia and the Medical Profession set me off to find other sources of Happiness and happily enough the American Indians entered my life and more or less helped me plan a division of time and usage of time which balances and brings happiness, such as it did for them before contact with the latter day saints of unhappiness and depression.
It does not take much brains to realize that too much WORK does not bring you happiness, it can wreck your social life and make you a moron before you hit 30 years of age. Too much has been said about Workaholic and that is what it is, a Disease imposed upon you by the society's desire to use you and chuck you out. All of us must work, but enjoying that work is far more important that what lubrication you provide the wheels of corporate fortunes, always remember, the very same people to whom you devote your working hours, will not look after you when you are sick, then you need friends. Always work for people or with people, with whom you are friends as well, in corporate world that is hardly possible.
Relationships are what define you, and you need them at every stage in your life and more so as you get older. Make your own mistakes rather than listening to others telling you to be careful and pessimistic, but make your mistakes early in your life so that you have a long life ahead of you to savour your happiness.
Relationships dont grow out of trees, you need to nurture it with TIME, and now you can see why long working hours and meaningful relationships cant go hand in hand. The greatest gift you can give people of your generation is the gift of TIME, across the continents and social classes and cultures.
Decrease your desires and all of a sudden you would realize that that driving force to work extra hard dissipates a little. Work also gives you a mechanistic way of looking at life, calculating the profit of human interactions. The networking is not for your good, calculated and unhealthy but for the welfare of others, so that your friends can help more people through you or vice versa.
Studs Terkel in his seminal volume on Work had stated based on his ethnographic work that the majority of the people in the western world are not happy with their work, so choose your work carefully, find out what is that you are suited for rather than studying Business adminstration. How many MBAs are languishing in the lower ranks of the corporate society?
I admire people who actually look forward to going to work, who enjoy their work, there is some intrinsic beauty to it. But how many of your "hard working" friends fall into the category.
Money does not buy you happiness (an yiddisch folk wisdom says, but darling, it makes the shopping interesting), most people seem to understand this dictum in the non immigrant West but somehow they dont put it in practice. It is not sensitive to discuss these matters with maids from Cambodia working in malaysia or the Filipina/o indentured labourers all through the world. They are marching to a different tune.. Both Republic of Philippines and Bangladesh among others heavily depend upon these labourer/worker for an income..
Most people want to be happy, but very few are willing to do something about it. They are excellent at making excuses and postponing it.. The facts speak for themselves...