A study last week published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry concluded that despite the wrinkles and aches, older people are actually happier than younger adults. Researchers asked a random sample of 1,546 people from ages 21 to 99 in San Diego about their physical, cognitive and mental health. Question topics included how happy and satisfied with life they were, as well as how depressed, anxious or stressed they were.
These findings reinforce much of what I see across the country as I visit older people living in our independent accommodation, care homes and retirement villages - older age shouldn't be written off but should be a time for living.
So, I was horrified to see the results of a recent survey we carried out to understand how younger people feel about getting older. It seems that most of us are approaching later life with a great deal of trepidation. Only 13% of us think it's possible to have a good quality of life in our 80s, and only 27% think it's possible to be happy in your 70s. Overall, the results reveal a shockingly pessimistic perception of later life. These results are only exacerbated by degrading comments on pensioners, such as Jeremy Paxman's recent comments about The Mature Times, accusing its readership of being 'virtual corpses'.
In reality older age is often a time of great happiness, free of many of the stresses and anxieties of younger people. But, this doesn't match the view of most people. My fear is that if we go into later life expecting the worst, that will become the reality.
TV psychologist, Jo Hemmings, agrees that mindset is everything. Her recently published 'formula for happiness in later life' puts the power in each individual's hands to ensure they are living life to the full, especially in later life. The formula sets out that anticipation + appreciation + acceptance = happiness. Put simply, accepting your situation or being at peace with where you are; letting go of negativity from the past; and having something new in your life to look forward to is the perfect recipe for happiness.
We think it's time to dispel the myths and raise the country's expectations of later life. Whether it's joining a new exercise class or learning to speak a new language, older age should be celebrated and taken as an opportunity to try new things, learn new skills and make new friends.
More than a quarter of 18-24 year olds associate retirement with out-dated stereotypes of knitting (26%), golf (26%) and bingo (28%). But those of us already in retirement associated it with the exciting and adventurous with travel and learning something new coming out on top.
Our residents are a constant source of inspiration to us, living life to the fullest no matter their age. As part of our Silver Dreams initiative we've been helping fulfil a few of our resident's real life dreams showing it's never too late to turn life up a notch.
Thanks to the team at Belmond that operate the amazing British Pullman steam trains, rail enthusiasts Ken and Brenda Gerry travelled aboard a 1920s style carriage to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Gina and Stanley Altman celebrated 60 years together at The Savoy Theatre, and 58-year-old John Vaughan travelled by train for the first time in his life - something he'd always wanted to do.
The things each of us want in retirement will be vastly different. But one thing's for sure - it can be a time of great opportunity, we just need to grab it.
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