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Aging Can Mean Growing Older, Wiser and…Happier

The prevailing stereotype of aging is that getting old comes a cluster of obnoxious behaviors: crankiness, complaining, depression, irritability and overall negativity.

The reality: With old age comes greater contentment.

That’s the unexpected (and, frankly, delightful) findings of psychologist Timothy Salthouse, a professor at the University of Virginia, as well as several other prominent academics, whose research is nicely summarized in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Why Everything You Think About Aging May Be Wrong.”

These researchers found that emotional well-being improves over the decades until the 70s, when it levels off. Note that well-being doesn’t decline—despite the physical, emotional and often financial issues facing us as we age. It plateaus.

One expert put it this way: “In general, when we look at older adults, they tend to be happier, less anxious, less angry and tend to adapt well to their circumstances.”

Researchers also found that the quality of friendships deepens with age. So that’s another myth busted. You’re not necessarily going to be old and lonely—you’re much more likely to be spending time with people you’re truly, deeply connected to.

At the same time, it’s important to expand your social circles, because new acquaintances often lead to close relationships beyond the familiar ones. And with new friends you’ll be exposing yourself to fresh ideas, new experiences and more ways to continue enriching your life.

The point is not to coast as your primary style. Your coterie of close friends may mean a lot to you, but the inevitable will happen, and the ties that bind will at some point fray, then break.

And if there’s another major thing to take away from these findings, it’s this: One’s 70s is potentially the best time of one’s life, not the time to peak or fail. Personally, I’m looking forward to this decade.

Read the full article here.

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