Proof that baby boomers are happier

A new survey has found that single women over 50 are happier and report healthier lifestyles than when they were in their 30s.

According to the survey, conducted by Del Webb, 74 per cent of respondents reported being happier than they were at age 35, and more than one-in-five said they felt more attractive now in their 50s than they did two decades ago. 

Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they still engage in high-level exercise, such as weight training, hiking and cycling a few times a week, and the majority said they felt more empowered than ever before.

And it’s not just single baby boomers having all the fun, either. 

A couple of years ago, internationally renowned psychologist, Laura Carstensen, proved that many older people are happier than their younger counterparts. She found that not only does ageing bring increased knowledge and expertise, it improves emotional aspects of life as well.

She also found that anger, stress and worry all decrease with age, and that older people have a more positive outlook on life. 

So, why does ageing make us feel more happy and content?

“When we recognise that we don’t have all the time in the world, we see our priorities most clearly,” says Carstensen, in her TEDxWomen talk. 

“We take less notice of trivial matters. We savour life,” she adds. “We invest in more emotionally important parts of life, and life gets better, so we're happier day-to-day.”

Another contributing factor to emotional wellbeing could be a person’s playfulness; that is, a person’s predisposition to approach certain situations with humour, amusement or entertainment.

One 2013 University of Zurich study, involving more than 4,000 participants, found that playfulness plays an important role in a person’s wellbeing and positively relates to happiness. 

Another paper published in the American Journal of Play in 2011, highlighted that there is mounting evidence that positive factors, such as playfulness, are linked to healthy ageing. 

So, exactly what does playfulness look like? And does it change in later life?

The Adult Playfulness Scale (APS), developed in the early 90s, lists 32 characteristics that fall into one of five groups: spontaneity, expressiveness, fun, creativity, and silliness.

The 2011 American Journal of Play study, on the other hand, found that playful older adults are also relaxed, enthusiastic, positive, optimistic and naughty.

While the authors note that playful older adults can be mischievous, they say it is far from child-like behaviour.

According to the study authors, “They [playful older adults] embody fun and humour in ways that translate into laughter and amusement in others.”  

“Although impish, they are circumspect about their behavior in ways that teenagers have not yet mastered,” they add.  

Playfulness could also be a coping mechanism.

Disease, poverty and loss of social status are all problems associated with ageing.

As Laura Carstensen points out in her TEDx talk, “ageing is not a piece of cake.”

But whichever way you see it, countless studies continue to prove the same outcome: older people are happier, and perhaps a little naughty too!