Reaching our 50s is often stereotyped with the onset of the “midlife crisis”; an unhelpful concept of growing older that tells us our productivity and adaptability levels begin to rapid decline. It suggests our best years are behind us, when this is far from reality.
What studies in fact show, is that we experience a “U-bend” in happiness. It shows that people over 50 are generally happier than they were in their 30s and 40s, blowing all assumptions about the aging process out of the water. Here are some reasons why.
- We feel less stress and regret
It looks good from here on in. All of the stresses and woes that affected us in our 20s and 30s are shown to decrease as we grow older, and older people are shown to be able to handle their emotions better.
Studies show that while older people might become more affected by cognitive impairment – the typical effects of natural aging – their mental health generally improves, with better levels of satisfaction and wellbeing.
Old age seems to bring compassion and wisdom, allowing us to make more reasonable social decisions as we know better who we are inside and out.
- Our values change
It helps to think differently about the midlife “crisis” or “slump” that affects many in middle age. Our values at the start of adulthood are driven by competition and ambition, and conventional “achievements” such as getting that all-important job promotion.
With age, we seem to dwell less on the negative and think less about status and competition that comes with the demands of careers and romantic relationships. We begin to care less about what others think, and our values change as we look to deepen connections with friends and family.
We cherish our social connections more than during the seemingly more stressful decades of the 30s and 40s; a key part to growing older gracefully and happily. We’re probably a bit more experienced with pain and loss by this point and have learned a lot the hard way – so we look to hold on to what we’ve got.
Preventing isolation and shame of growing older is a key part to future-proofing ourselves beyond the age of 50. We need support and human connection to prevent future instability.
So reach out and talk to friends about it, sign up for those group activities you always wanted to do, make new connections, and remember that the transitions that take place post-50 are completely human and widespread.
- We tap into undiscovered wisdom and potential
The way we view old age has changed significantly. With people living longer than ever before, and retirement age stretching further into the future – the “happiness curve” is at work for longer, giving us more time to explore new opportunities and dip into our untapped reserves of creativity and experience.
The idea that we “peak” in middle age is no longer valid. In fact, studies show that people in their 50s and 60s are more likely to launch their own business than those in their 20s and 30s. We have been socially conditioned to think about aging as a pessimistic process – but it is, in fact, quite the opposite.
It is becoming all the more socially acceptable for adults to continue learning and exploring, and there has never been a better time to hit the books, become a volunteer, or pursuing a hobby.
- We savor the “simple pursuits” as they become more important
As we grow older, we realise that the best things in life are free. Simple pursuits such as getting out into nature, spending time with grandchildren and family, or becoming a volunteer to help others can work wonders for our happiness levels.
This is all thanks to the science of the happiness curve. By the time we’ve reached our 50s and beyond, we are in a position where we want to give back. Becoming a mentor can give us an enormous sense of pride and self-worth and allows us to use our skills once more. It’s the little things.
Life beyond 50 is, therefore, a time of change and transition that we should learn to embrace and enjoy. Don’t think of it as a declining slump – but rather as a U-bend of possibility.