Want to experience true happiness? It might be a while. According to recent research, the people that rate themselves the most “happy” of all age groups are those from ages 82 to 85. So what makes this particular bunch so elated in this final stage of life? You might be surprised.
A physical change that occurs in the brain is one of many contributing factors. However, decreased levels of worry, anxiety, and stress also play a significant role. In general, elderly people are far more relaxed than younger adults. With no need to plan for the future, they are able to enjoy the simple, everyday moments without worry clouding their view. While some scientists argue that this change in demeanor is simply part of the human evolutionary process, others disagree.
“I’d rather think that elder happiness is an accomplishment, not a condition, that people get better at living through effort, by mastering specific skills,” says New York Times Op-Ed columnist, David Brooks.
According to Brooks, one of the contributing factors to this increase in happiness is bifocalism – the ability to see the same situation from multiple perspectives. A lifetime of experience allows and individual the ability to look at tough situations from different angles, without becoming emotionally overwhelmed.
Another contributing factor is the ability to balance tensions. Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe, authors of “Practical Wisdom,” explain that, “Performing many social roles means balancing competing demands.” For example, if you are a parent you must be nurturing yet authoritative with your children. When entering a new dating relationship you want to seem interested but not too aggressive. As humans, we are constantly being pulled in multiple directions to fit into the designated social roles in our lives. Only with time, experience, and age, are we able to truly understand how to balance these ongoing tensions with ease.
Last but certainly not least, one of the most significant factors is an increased feeling of empathy. Elderly people have the unique ability to sympathize with others on a deeper level. Through a lifetime of varied experiences, they empathize with the ups and downs that life presents, and have a much stronger intuition for their potential outcomes.
As marketers, it’s time we gave the elderly generation more of our attention – to learn from their successes and failures, and master the life skills that shape us for the better both personally and professionally. Whether you desire to increase your happiness, become a better marketer, or simply a better person, taking a few notes from the happiest people in the world isn’t a bad idea.