I never thought, when I was a young buck, that I would ever want to be an old man--a fogey, a geezer, a codger.
Well, I became a resident of Geezerland in 2003--65 being the entry qualification according to the OAS people. For another 15 years since then I have risen up the ladder to the higher ranks of that community--the only one where you have to go downhill to get higher.
Now there are a few drawbacks in belonging to the grey nation. I mentioned a few of them in my book ABCs of Retirement: You spend more on medicine than on beer. Your body keeps reminding you it’s time for a little more maintenance. You see more of your doctor than of your kids. Winters are colder. Ice is slipperier. Stairs are steeper. Height and memory both become shorter. Being “good in bed” means you don’t snore much or hog the blankets.
But, does all this mean you were happier when you were 22? Or 33? Ask yourself that question, then look at the following surveys’ findings.
The 2017 Culture Vulture Trends Report by Mindshare (a worldwide media agency network): “Not only do we get cooler with age we also become happier. The ‘Happiness U curve’ shows that our happiness peaks not during our 20s and 30s but when we hit our 60s and beyond.”
Angus Deaton, economist at Princeton: “You accumulate emotional wisdom as you get older….You just learn to live your life better.”
Some 30 years ago I was interviewed by a local woman for an ongoing survey, by which company or agency I’ve forgotten, but its conclusions were much the same as those above.
During the 20 years I taught high school the suicide rate among people in their teens and 20s in Canada and much of the Western world became a very serious concern. Eventually one such death occurred in our community, and there were signs that many of our young people were emotionally troubled and anxious much of the time. Much of it, I suspected, was due to the difference between reality and the fun-fun-fun depiction of youthful life in the media.
Disturbed by this, I began to make a point of explaining to my classes that if they often felt troubled and disappointed they should realize they were not alone--most of their friends and classmates felt much the same way. That the teens and early 20s are difficult times: Trying to establish some social acceptance and status. Dealing with raging hormones and relating to the opposite sex. Conflicts with parents. Problems with schoolwork. Trying, often desperately, to prepare for post-secondary education and/or employment.
I told them that anxiety, even occasional fear, over those issues were normal. But that dealing with them would almost always, and much sooner than they expected, become much easier. And that in general adult life is less stressful than the youthful years. Throwing the rest of life away just before opportunities for the “good years” came along would be tragic.
Those observations are, with an exception that surprised me, borne out by a Nielsen Poll. It showed that from the teens to the early 20s self-reported wellbeing declined. Then it improved and continued to improve in the 30s. For more than a decade however, from the late 30s to the earliest 50s, there was another decline. Probably a time of taking on more responsibilities at work, raising children to adulthood and dealing with aging parents. But from about 52 wellbeing began to rise with surprising speed, continuing on a steep curve to its highest ever point at 85. That’s right:85.
Keep in mind those findings were self reported by the subjects of the poll. They only give an idea, of course, of what you might reasonably expect if you don’t have too many family tragedies, devastating illnesses or other severe traumas. And there are many other factors at play. Religion, for example seems to play a positive role.
On the whole, though, I have to admit satisfaction, so far, with my residence in Geezerland.