Young or old, happiness is the central pursuit of life. Some of us find it easier than others, but older Americans have a significant advantage, according to New York Times writer John Leland.
For three years, Leland followed a group of elderly New Yorkers. He found that, despite deteriorating bodies and minds, their spirits were elevated. Surprisingly, they reported higher levels of happiness than Americans a quarter their age.
“If they were not always gleeful, they were resilient and not paralyzed by the challenges that came their way. All had known loss and survived. None went to a job he did not like, coveted stuff she could not afford, brooded over a slight on the subway or lost sleep over events in the distant future. They set realistic goals. Only one said he was afraid to die.”
The six portraits Leland provides offer a measure of perspective; getting older widens our point of view, and losses don’t outperform gains in the span of a full life. The more we’ve lived, and the less living we have left, the more of what truly matters rises above the daily din.
And if age is a factor in enlightenment, just imagine the potential wisdom in a 1,000 year-old human being, theorized to have already been born.
Read more of Leland’s story here.