At which age do you think people experience the greatest satisfaction with their lives? You might assume that youth yields the highest happiness levels. After all, younger people enjoy excellent health, and they can look forward to many career and relationship opportunities.
However, research reveals that people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s don’t have a monopoly on happiness. In fact, our happiness tends to decline during our young and mid-adult years. At those ages, we have more responsibilities that bring more stress into our lives.
In contrast, older individuals report higher happiness with life. What contributes to this satisfaction? Researchers note that after their mid-40s, most people have developed the following qualities:
- They know how to live in and appreciate the now instead of focusing on the future.
- They are more trusting, so they have and build stronger relationships.
- They have more emotional resilience built up from their previous life experiences.
- They do not have the same expectations of themselves that younger people do.
- They feel a sense of achievement from what they’ve already done in life.
- They focus less on pleasing others than younger individuals.
- They have more optimistic viewpoints.
This research reveals that your 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond truly can become your golden years—even with changes in health. Use the tips below to capitalize on the happiness all around you in this stage of your life.
1. Modify Your House to Fit Your Needs
Where you live during your golden years contributes to your overall happiness. A 2014 study compared the happiness of 100 individuals who were at least 60 years old: 50 lived at home and 50 lived in senior care facilities. Those who lived at home experienced more positive moods, better psychological health, and higher life satisfaction.
If your health and circumstances allow, you can enhance your happiness if you live in a familiar setting. The following modifications will help transform your home to suit your needs:
- Remodel your bathrooms with grab bars, walk-in tubs or showers, and sinks that provide easy wheelchair access.
- Install stairlifts, wheelchair lifts, or elevators.
- Cover outdoor stairs with ramps. Finish ramps with easy-grip handrails on both sides.
Talk to a home renovation expert or an occupational therapist for additional tips.
2. Discover New Technology
You know the adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. And if you’ve struggled to master new technology, you might think that saying holds some truth. But modern advances offer you numerous ways to simplify your life and find more enjoyment.
Ease yourself into new technology with these ideas:
- Read on an e-reader or a tablet. You can resize the text to suit your eyesight with just a few taps of your fingers. Your local library probably has a large selection of books and magazines you can access without leaving your house, too.
- Revisit your favorite TV shows. Online video streaming services don’t just feature content from the past few decades. They also make many classic TV shows and movies available on demand.
- Reconnect with friends online. Have a friend or family member introduce you to social media and help you search for friends you haven’t talked to in years.
Of course, you don’t have to do everything online. For example, continue to shop in stores if you feel uncomfortable putting your personal information on the Internet. Remember, technology should simplify your life, not make it more stressful or difficult.
3. Appreciate the Ordinary
Younger people find more happiness in out-of-the-ordinary happenings. They look forward to visiting exciting destinations, falling in love, starting a family, or achieving a major career goal.
In contrast, older individuals know how to take stock of what they already have and find joy in typical events. In one study, researchers asked people aged 18 to 79 to rate their emotional responses to a past ordinary experience and an extraordinary one. Their answers revealed that people tie more happiness to ordinary events the older they become, but our feelings about extraordinary events stay the same across the years.
Your golden years offer you a chance to savor the simple beauties of life, like the vibrant shades of a sunset, the flap of a butterfly’s wings, or the taste of your favorite cookie. Note the commonplace experiences that bring you joy in a “Small Things” journal.
4. Write Your Life Story
Of course, even as you take pleasure from the details of your life now, you may look back on some experiences and feel sadness and disappointment. Try writing about those experiences. Researchers note that writing about negative events helps us reframe those moments and feel more positively about them.
As you write your life story, use these tips to make your history an exercise in happiness:
- Note the lessons you learned from significant events, both positive and negative.
- Say what you are most grateful for, such as valued relationships or unique opportunities.
- Brainstorm memories to rediscover moments you haven’t thought about in years.
- Reach out to others and ask about their memories of you.
Don’t let young people have all the fun! Use these happiness hints so you can find new sources of satisfaction in your golden years.