Family, Self

Does Pursuing Happiness Even Matter When You're Older?

love across time

As my Momma would say, "Oh, me..." I am now qualified to write about the happiness, or lack thereof, of "older people!"  

These days my concerns are about taking care of my affairs, providing for my children as much as I possibly can, alleviating difficult end-of-life decisions they will probably be required to consider, all while ensuring I do not become a burden to anyone. I can now more fully understand my Momma's frustration at becoming old. She was a smart, vibrant, nurturing woman — not just to her children and grandchildren, but to anyone she encountered. Even though I don't have the physical capabilities that I did when I was younger, I am even more committed to live and love well now. Perhaps "how to be happy" is not the main goal—instead, contentment, satisfaction, grace, understanding, clarity, peace, faith (among other things) have become what's important in my older years.

I believe the greatest benefit of age is experience. The peaks and the depths have taught me valuable lessons — the most important of which is that things change. I have found that acceptance is necessary in order to deal with these changes. Remembering my early resistance to "accepting things you cannot change" (from the Serenity Prayer), I struggled to talk, work, push, drive with all my might to improve situations, places of employment, the church, the community and the people around me. I thought, "If I can do it, why can't they?" and in my naiveté, I thought everyone would come to my way of thinking and feeling. I am sure glad that didn't happen! Oh, so much to learn! Which brings me to another component of happiness in "older" people: realizing there is so much more to learn and to never give up the curiosity to explore those things that spark your interest.

Remaining productive, creating more order, taking care of responsibilities, maintaining connectedness, liking who you are and being genuinely comfortable in your own skin are aspects of growing older that I truly appreciate. You learn what things are most important, and ways to channel time, attention, and energy to focus on them. The wisdom of age can provide information and support for others, and many younger people depend upon our experience to guide them. In exchange, the perceptions and capabilities of the youth provide great joy for me. Allowing these youngsters to take on the roles that we may have formerly held — and to know that this is right and good — is a delight. They are ready to conquer the world, and so am I.