senior laughing at young person standing outside green tree in the back

The paradox of ageing

Ageing comes with many struggles like cognitive and physical decline, lower levels of social engagement and being taken less seriously in society. Despite all this, Psychologist Laura Carstensen conducted several studies that looked into the everyday emotions of young, middle-aged and old people. She found that older people actually feel fewer negative emotions than their younger counterparts. They felt less often anger, fear, disgust, and just as much happiness, joy and calm.

So what’s the science behind this surprising finding? Her research shows the less time you perceive to have left in your life, the more inclined you are to live in the present moment. And living in the present moment is very good for our mental health, as it tends to take people’s attention to positive aspects of the world. That is also why Buddhist practices like meditation, aim at enabling people to live in the here and now. 

So although often elderly people are stigmatized for living sad lives, remember that they are capable of what many younger people struggle with today; living in the present moment.