As a journalist, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing hundreds of seniors. Unlike younger generations, our elders went into adulthood knowing that life would take work. They didn’t expect a handout but took pride in working towards their goals. Now, in their “golden years” they are experiencing illnesses and the loss of loved ones. Yet, even those have told me, “I have a wonderful life and I’m so grateful for everything I have.”
Gratitude really is the secret to happiness. More than that, I believe it’s the secret to a successful life. What use is it to work towards goals, if when we achieve them, we don’t appreciate what we have? What comes easy is rarely valued, and let’s face it, younger generations have been given much!
My parents enjoy the small wonders of life. They love working in their yard and seeing their grandchildren and especially their great-grandchildren. Both are close to 80 but they can still work circles around me. They take a lot of satisfaction in their everyday accomplishments. My mother recently told me that she knew daddy would probably have some hard issues to deal with in the near future because of serious health issues he’s faced. She said, “It won’t be easy, but I’m so grateful that we’ve had more than 50 years together. Think of all that we’ve experienced! We are very blessed.”
I know many of us fear aging and perceive it as a time when we will suffer from depression and despair but research shows that the opposite is actually more accurate. A recent study concluded that we actually get happier as we get older. According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States in a study authored by Arthur A. Stone, after the age of 50, worry, stress, and anger diminish while happiness increases dramatically. Isn’t that great news?
Another recent nationwide survey of seniors found that being thankful was one of the most important factors in relieving anxiety, coping with fear, and for living a good life.
Perhaps, with age we acquire the coping skills necessary to endure and thrive despite life’s obstacles. Many experts agree that it is high time for perceptions on aging to shift dramatically.
There are surely unique challenges to aging that I’ve seen in many elders. The difference seems to be that they have overcome so many challenges that they are able to cope well. Health issues are definitely something that has to be contended with for many. The good news is that a positive attitude and the ability to be flexible keeps life interesting and satisfying.
So, have you counted your blessings today?
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About The Author: Karen Everett Watson is a Gerontologist and has over 10 years experience as a Journalist. Karen has spent 4 years in the senior community interviewing retirement community residents.
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