blond woman wearing green scarf on vintage background

blond woman wearing green scarf on vintage background

There is a study out called SAGE – short for Successful Aging Evaluation. Sage – get it – as in the Webster definition, meaning “wise through reflection and experience,” paints a much more positive picture of aging than we’ve traditionally held in our minds. Turns out, we not only get wiser as we age, but we also enjoy life more, per the results of this study.

Did you know that currently the fastest growing segment of the population is over the age of 80? Yes, the boomers are getting on up there ya’ll. Good grief my own mom turns 80 this year. It’s just mind blowing!

Since aging has typically been thought of as a time of “going downhill,” this study is refreshing as it puts a whole different light on the subject.

Led by Professor Jeste of the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, the research followed adults ranging in age from 50 to 99 years old, with a median age being about 77 years old.  Above and beyond looking at chronic disease and disability, the researchers assessed subjective factors like social engagement and the participant’s views of their well-being. The results were remarkable in that they found that our overall mental health, which means our moods and sense of overall fulfillment, as well as our ability to handle stress, keeps improving the older we get, right up to the very end.

Didn’t we all kind of know this? Think about it, with the exception of a few crotchety older peeps, if you’ve spent time with your grandparents or other elderly relatives, you sense they’ve mellowed and no longer sweat the small stuff. There evidently comes a point when we realize that all the stress and worry is a waste of time and a waste of precious life moments.

So, without further ado, here are some of the more eye-opening results from the research:

  • Resilience is key – the study showed that the levels of resilience or depression a participant had had a substantial influence on how they self-rated their aging process. Further, and this is evidence that we should work on our resilience as much as our bodies, they discovered that  people with low physical functioning but high resilience, had similar self-ratings of successful aging to individuals that were physically healthy but with not very resilient.
  • Higher education must lead to better coping skills or a positive outlook – because after adjusting for age, it was a prominent factor in those that gave themselves a higher self-rating of successful aging. Higher education levels can predict better cognitive function, as well as less depression, higher optimism, resilience and more positive perceptions of one’s physical and mental health.
  • The timespan that includes our 20s and 30s are in fact the most stressful decades of our lives – Jeste pointed to the fact that some researchers have reported a U-shaped curve of well-being across an individual’s lifespan. U-shaped curve? I’d never heard of that, but evidently it is kind of opposite of a bell-shaped curve. Rather than going up in the middle it actually goes down. So this u-shaped curve suggests that our happiness or life-satisfaction actually declines from early adulthood to middle age followed by an improvement in later adulthood.

Here’s our take-away right of the mouth of Professor Jeste, “It was clear to us that, even in the midst of physical or cognitive decline, individuals in our study reported feeling that their well-being had improved with age.” So, what shall we do? Let’s relax, enjoy life, – not sweat the small stuff. The best may be yet to come! Blessings!

Sandra M Bell
Author of “Lunchtime Joy Magnet”

Related Products:
Aging Backwards – book

The Happiness Advantage – book

Related Content:
What Makes a Good Life – Video

Six Unexpected Finds in New Happiness Studies – Article