Baby boomers; let’s think back for a moment, to the days of our long-haired, love-beaded youth. Picture our “anti-establishment” hippie days, when we took a strong stand against war, and demonstrated for peace and love. Perhaps you were one of the ½ million young visionaries who gathered in solidarity at the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival to groove to the music of Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, Santana, The Grateful Dead, Joan Baez, and The Who. Back then our generation was sure we could change the world… for the better. Then we grew up and realized that although we had some impact; the world was not so easily changed. Many of us were disillusioned. We had no choice but to get back to reality and trade our free-love drawstring bell-bottoms and gauze kurtas for more responsible pinstriped business suits and shorter hairdos.
Needless to say, I was hardly surprised when I came across two Pew Research Center Reports about Baby Boomers (those born between 1946-1964) going “Glumly” into old age. On overall life satisfaction, 80% of the boomer respondents said they were dissatisfied with the way things were going; as compared to much lower rates of dissatisfaction in the other age categories. Most of us feel we did not do as well as our parents did and that our standard of living is lower. Many boomers feel uneasy financially. Some of us are drained from being sandwiched between the caregiving needs of our children and our aging parents. In short—baby boomers may have legitimate reasons to feel anxious, worried, depressed or disappointed when it comes to facing our transition into old age.
But Are There Ways to Make Ourselves Happier, Despite Our Challenges?
The short answer to that is YES.
Research from the School of Psychiatry at the University of new South Wales in Sidney conducted a 30-year longitudinal study that measured life satisfaction, using Personality, Depression, and Self-Esteem inventories, as well as a Satisfaction with Life Scale. Participants were also sent a semi-structured interview in which they were asked to outline their future plans and strategies to maintain health and well-being. The data was gathered at baseline and then every 5 years over the course of 30 years.
Here are the 5 Habits of the most satisfied older adults, according to the data.
They are habits that you can easily adopt, too.
- Proactive planning. Happy baby boomers don’t let life happen to them. Instead, they pre-planned (financially, mentally, and physically), for situations they may be facing, such as retirement. They tended to set goals actively worked toward achieving them.
- Maintenance. The happiest participants in the study were conscious of what strategies worked for them in terms of maintaining their relationships, health, and creative interests—and so they made sure they continued to use those strategies that were most effective.
- Social Connectedness. The happier older adults were those that spent more and better quality time with friends, family and partners. For many of us, with our limited allotment of earthly time, that may mean cutting out relationships that don’t add to your well-being. Who needs friends who make plans and then stand you up last minute, with nary an excuse? Who needs to date a leech who seems to care more about what he/she can get from you than how you both can enrich each other’s’ lives together. Who needs to spend every day with a family member who insults you and disrespects your boundaries? In other words, surround yourself with people who care about you and nurture those relationships with an investment of your time.
- Passing the baton. Just as Erik Erikson theorized in his psychosocial development approach in Psychology, guiding the next generation (children, grandchildren) enhances our sense of happiness and well-being as we grow older. It’s actually kind of cool to take the spotlight off of ourselves at this stage and sit back and enjoy a supportive role as we root for the next generation as they realize their dreams.
- Smelling the Roses. The most satisfied older adults in this study were those with a great sense of awareness of the clock continuing to tick. Thus, they made sure to fill their lives with appreciation, gratitude and an intention to savor the simple pleasures in a day.
Let’s start a conversation: What do you find helps you maintain your well-being at this stage in life? What are some strategies you use to make and keep positive relationships? How to you stay in touch with your creative side and stay engaged with activities you are passionate about? Do leave your comments below, and feel free to share (citing the source) with whomever might find this article useful.
Pew Research Center articles:
Wilhelm, K & Geerligs, L (2013) Successful transition to later life: Strategies used by baby boomers. Australian Journal on Ageing, Vol 33(2) pp 81-85
c.Raeleen Mautner, LLC 2018