Oldies more golden about life

Last updated 05:00 22/02/2014
 Paul Jose
THIS MAN'S BEST FRIEND: Walking his dog Ginger makes Victoria University developmental psychologist Paul Jose happy.

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Despite their ageing bodies, older people are happier than the young and fit, according to a Your Weekend reader survey. Those older than 70 were the most content, rating their happiness at 3.9 out of 5, while the unhappiest were those aged 30 to 39, at 3.2 out of 5.

The survey was designed by Victoria University developmental psychologist and happiness expert Paul Jose, and was completed by 424 Your Weekend readers.

Dr Jose said that while the survey did not delve into the reasons behind people's level of happiness, the results were consistent with other research that suggested older people were more content.

"Some people are surprised by that, because particularly younger people looking at aged and elderly people like myself in their 60s think to themselves ‘My god, they're on death's doorstep, they must be totally petrified and unhappy about things'.

"But now that I'm this age I can talk for most people in their 60s and 70s - they have a sense of contentment and happiness and satisfaction, looking back at all the good things they've accomplished. There's a sense of having lived life well for the most part."

By contrast, 30-somethings with young children tended to be stressed, sleep-deprived and financially insecure.

"There's a paradox here. There's a societal and cultural stereotype that parents with young children feel this sense of joy. The birth of a child is an amazing peak moment - a very poignant sense of bliss and joy.

"But then you have to take it home and it's crying in the middle of the night and you're getting up and then you've got two other kids who are older and they're out of sorts and everybody gets sick.

"It's a time of low money, low sleep, low time - it's stressful."

Women, who made up almost three out of four survey respondents, were slightly happier than men.

The survey also revealed what makes Kiwis happy. Family topped the list, followed by friends, parenthood, work, pleasurable activities and pets. Responses ranged from "learning about the universe, looking through telescopes" to "asparagus in spring, feijoas in autumn" and "icecream, knowledge, desire".

Family was also by far the most commonly cited source of meaning in life, followed by meaningful work, caring for others, parenthood and making a difference.

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