Don't Worry, Age Happy
Old age can get a bad rap. But, as research shows, our later years could also be our happiest.
While old age is often characterised as a never-ending parade of wrinkles and creaky joints, Australian Unity Wellbeing Index research shows that our general satisfaction with life trends consistently upward through to retirement and beyond.
In fact, the data shows that people aged 76+ have the highest wellbeing of all.
“As people age, they often become comfortable in their own skin,” says Beverly Smith, Executive General Manager of Residential Communities at Australian Unity.
“They’ve achieved a lot of things that they wanted to, and they’re now in that headspace where they can relax and enjoy life without the financial pressures that younger people feel.”
The low point for life satisfaction comes in midlife—specifically between the ages of 46 and 55.
It’s a time when people get caught in a crossfire of competing financial and emotional pressures. They may be juggling more responsibility at work while raising a family and managing the demands of elderly parents.
Beverly believes this can also be a period of intense self-scrutiny where people struggle to reconcile their actual circumstances with their earlier hopes and dreams.
“This time is when people imagine they’d be successful in their career, have a house and the mortgage paid down. But the reality is that a lot of those goals are either very difficult to achieve or simply keep moving.”
What makes us happy changes as our life priorities evolve. As we age, our health tends to decline—and so does our satisfaction with our physical wellbeing.
Fortunately, this downturn is offset by a host of compensating factors in most of life’s other key domains.
The Australian Unity Wellbeing Index shows that, as the years tick by, we develop a greater sense of satisfaction with our standard of living, relationships, sense of community and our future security.
It’s another indication that our overall sense of wellbeing relies on considerably more than just good health.
Community connectedness is proven to contribute greatly to our sense of wellbeing—and, despite widespread concern about social isolation as we age, it’s something that many older Australians have in abundance.
Our research found that connectedness increases after the age of 55, with people 76+ reporting the highest levels of connectedness.
Reassuringly, our satisfaction with social support also increases with age. While loneliness does increase for people aged 76+, the overall picture for ageing and wellbeing is a positive one—meaning that these really might be the golden years after all.