Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”
From the poem “Rabbi ben Ezra” by Robert Browning (1812–1889)
I grew up a child of the 1960s. It was a time when millions and millions of baby boomers filled high schools and universities. John F. Kennedy, the civil rights and women’s movements, war and revolution around the world, rock and roll. The youth culture was born. A phrase that stuck in the minds of many back then was “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”
Those children of the 1960s are now themselves in their 60s and my, how times have changed. Although most people assume that young is better than old, and after a certain age life is all downhill, in fact, the opposite is true. Where the children of the 60s once saw the triumph of youth as inevitable, that same generation is now discovering the joys and virtues of aging. Science is backing us up as a growing body of research now suggests happiness actually increases as the decades advance. Few people understand or believe this – even older people themselves. A University of Michigan study showed that even though the average 70 year old is happier than the average 30 year old, both groups thought the 30 year olds would be happier.
Happiness does tend to rise with age. According to a 2010 study reported in the New York Times, 85 year olds reported greater happiness than 18 year olds. A study reported by The Economist showed the actual peaks of life satisfaction come in one’s early twenties, decline until the mid- fifties, then increase again into the 80s. This path of decreasing happiness from youth until middle age until one hits a “midlife crisis” point, then rising as people head toward old age, is termed the “u –curve.” The u-curve has been documented in countries around the world. Life satisfaction, it turns out, is not a long slow decline to the valley of death, it falls toward middle age then rises.
So, all my friends in middle age, do not be afraid, The first of life was made so we may experience the last – the best is yet to be. Yes, aches and pains, disease and loss of independence creep up on us. But so does increasing acceptance of ourselves. We have accomplished or come to terms with the dreams of our youth, and the ambition that fueled the successes – and anxieties — of our younger life is quieter now.
There is no better time than this season to count our blessings and look forward to later years when we may find increasing acceptance of ourselves and others. We wish you the very best for the remainder of the year and all of 2015.