It gets better as you get older

Age : The happiness of the late years

Getting old is not for wimps. Age has its pitfalls. It has fallen into disrepute as an era of incessant and inevitable decline, both mentally and physically. The joints hurt, the heart doesn't want to like it used to, forgetfulness gnaws at the ego.

And yet that's only one, the dark side of aging. Next to this there is also a bright one. You can call it the paradox of old age: while the body is degrading, the soul is doing better. Although the number of years left to live is dwindling, life is getting along better. Amazing, but not to be dismissed, as a study has not shown for the first time.

Psychiatrist Dilip Jeste of the University of California in San Diego and his team surveyed around 1,500 randomly selected residents of San Diego and the surrounding area between the ages of 21 and 100 about their physical and mental well-being. It turned out that mental health - joy of life, balance, little stress, fear and depression - increased evenly over the years. "The participants reported that they got on better with themselves and their lives year after year, decade after decade," Jeste told the American website "Medscape". A certain reduction in intellectual abilities is inevitable, but it is not of real importance for many.

It turned out that the group of 20 to 30 year olds is much more psychologically stressed. In this phase, the course is set for later life, for example in terms of career and partnership. “You have a lot of options at this stage in your life, but you also wonder if you are making the right decisions and are afraid of the wrong ones,” Jeste comments.

Wisdom makes it easier to get older

What do older people do right in dealing with their lives? Why are they subjectively better, even though their future horizons are objectively narrowing? The answer is multi-faceted, but it fits into one word: wisdom.

For example the sense of the essentials. "Older people learn not to be too bothered with little things - and a lot of things that used to be big and important become small with age," says Jeste. Compared to younger adults, older ones have less to contend with negative feelings. They are not so easily unbalanced by unfavorable living conditions, such as poor health.

These processes could even be detected in brain scans. The control center amygdala (almond kernel) in the temporal lobe of the brain, known as the “fear center”, is less responsive to negative, stress-inducing images in the elderly. In this context, it fits that mental illnesses become less common in older age groups, with the exception of the risk of dementia (mental decline).

One is as old as one feels, it is said in a whitewashed manner. No, one is as old as one is old. But that doesn't mean you have to feel bad!

Our columnist heads the science department of the Tagesspiegel. Do you have a question about his good news?

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