Changes with age
There are a variety of factors that affect happiness in later life. Research can show what challenges older Americans may face, and tips to help face those challenges to live a longer, healthier life.
Balintfy: Recent research by NIH-funded scientists has shown that happiness and well-being increase after middle age.
Bernard: What we know is that happiness or well-being is dynamic throughout life, and it appears that after age 50 or so things get better.
Balintfy: Dr. Marie Bernard is a deputy director at an NIH institute. She says itís a good thing to be a baby boomer.
Bernard: You have less than the way of stress and anxiety. You have less than the way of worry.
Balintfy: Baby boomers, people born between 1946 and 1964 are starting to turn 65 this year. Dr. Bernard explains that research may offer tips for these older Americans.
Bernard: Our research suggests that social connectedness is very important in later life. We have some researchers who demonstrated that the network of individuals that you interact with can make a different in truly happiness. If you're interacting with happy people, you're more likely to be happy. If you're interacting with people who donít smoke or who are stopping smoking, you're more likely to do that. On the flipside, if you interact with a lot of people who are obese, you are more likely to be obese and you have to be careful about your friends. But those networks are very important. We have other research that suggests that people who are involved with organizations like clubs or who are regular attendees at church tend to have better health and greater longevity than others.
Balintfy: She notes that as baby boomers are nearing retirement, retirement patterns are changing.
Bernard: The days when people would retire and that's it Ė they sat back in the rocking Ė are long gone. And we see some people who go from full-time work to part-time work and then to a traditional retirement. Some people go from full-time working one job to another career. Some people have been working full-time who go to full or part-time volunteer work which is as demanding as when they were in the work life, people following lots of different patterns and it seems to be correlated with people having better health and more vigor.
Balintfy: Another demand facing some is the challenge of caring for both elderly parents while at the same time assisting children.
Bernard: Those individuals who are between are considered the sandwich generation responsible for caring for both the older and the younger generation.
Balintfy: Dr. Bernard adds that we know a lot more now than we did 50 years ago about what's needed to have a healthy lifestyle. She advises baby boomers and older Americans to use the resources available at NIH. For details, visit www.nia.nih.gov. This is Joe Balintfy, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Joe Balintfy
Sound Bite: Dr. Marie Bernard
Topic: baby boom, baby boomer, boomers, happiness, well-being, older American, age, aging research, social connectedness, retirement, retire, sandwich generation