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Happiness in Older Americans

Yes, growing old means more wrinkles, age spots and forgetfulness. But getting older is not all bad for many people. Mounting evidence suggests aging may be a key to happiness. There is conflicting research on the subject, however, and experts say it may all boil down to this: Attitude is everything.

Older adults tend to be more optimistic and to have a more positive outlook on life than their younger, stressed, counterparts, research is finding. The results take on more meaning in light of the ongoing increase in life expectancy.

Why are seniors happier?

A recent study by a team of researchers, published this month in the journal Cortex, suggests one reason: Older adults remember the past through a rosy lens.

The researchers recorded brain activity using MRI scans while young and older adults viewed a series of photos with positive and negative themes, such as a victorious skier and a wounded soldier.

Results showed in the older adult brain, there were strong connections between emotion-processing regions of the brain and those known to be important for successful formation of memories, particularly when processing positive information. The same strong connections weren't found for the younger participants.

The researchers, writing in a issue of the journal Psychology and Aging think that as a person's life expectancy decreases, they might focus on what makes them feel good now rather than focusing on the negative. Aging can bring more cheer as people become more comfortable with themselves and their role in society.

In the end, its all about attitude. Individuals that adapt the best to changes have the highest expected levels of happiness, according to the Population Reference Bureau.


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