Artful Aging

The Surprises of Aging: Friendships, Creativity and Satisfaction with Life Can Flourish

When we think of aging, we often think of decline and loss, but a growing body of research shows that some things actually get better as we age.

As a student nurse, my first assignment was on a medical floor in a hospital. And that is where I fell in love with older adults.

Perhaps it was the particular generation I worked with, but their grace, kindness, and sense of gratitude were so present. Now having been in the retirement-living industry for nearly 15 years, I have to say that sharing life with older adults is transformational.

“When we think of old age, we often think of decline and loss,” says Claudia Haase, an assistant professor of Human Development and Social Policy at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy, “but a growing body of research shows that some things actually get better as we age. Our new findings show that trust increases as people get older and, moreover, that people who trust more are also more likely to experience increases in happiness over time.” Though trust can have negative consequences, especially among older adults at risk of falling for scams and fraud, the studies found no evidence that those negative consequences erode the benefits of trust. According to Michael Poulin, Department of Psychology, University at Buffalo, “One explanation for age-related increases in trust is that since older adults are increasingly motivated to give back to others, they believe them to be good and trustworthy.”

“We know that older people are more likely to look at the bright side of things,” Haase added. “As we age, we may be more likely to see the best in other people and forgive the little letdowns that got us so wary when we were younger.”

From my own experience, I find that older adults live in the present. This ability is associated with a certain type of detachment. Having shed many of the world’s possessions and associations with success, power and wealth, they are free to just be there in the moment. They are enlightened and lightened. It’s ironic that today there is a personal development movement of Mindfulness. The truth is that mindfulness comes naturally as we age—you will learn to “be” just by be-ing around longer.

Being in the presence of elders on a daily basis has radically expanded my perception of what it means to grow old. I better respect the beauty of this life’s stage blessings.

Jane Meyers-Bowen, MN, is the Marketing Director at Garden Court Retirement Community. For more information, you can contact her at 425-438-9080.