There are significant benefits of aging (emotional intelligence and sexual satisfaction among them) that no one seems to talk about—until now. From fine wine and vintage tees to Brad Pitt, some things inevitably get better with age. And contrary to many misconceptions, you (yes, you!) can age successfully over time as well. Keep reading if you’re curious about how to age well—and better yet, why you should embrace aging—throughout life’s later transitions.
5 Things That Get Better with AgeHappiness, satisfaction, and self-determination are all essential for a healthy, happy life. And thankfully, they’re all things that get better with time. Here’s a roundup of the top benefits of aging that will keep you optimistic for years to come.
1. YOUR EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCELaura Carstensen, PhD, Director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, posits that older people experience several benefits of aging tied to emotional stability. First, she says that advanced age can breed compassion. Second, since major life milestones—such as major career shifts or purchasing your first home—are typically out of the way, you’ll have fewer stressful decisions to make. In short, older people become more settled into the rhythm of their lives and walk on solid ground. Then, perhaps the strongest marker of emotional intelligence in mature populations is the ability to see light in the face of mortality. When they have happy experiences, they often recognize and come to terms with the fragility of life. However, rather than being morbid or sad, they’re better able to live in the moment and appreciate what’s directly in front of them. The takeaway: Older folks know how to be present and see the good in life.
2. Your Recall of Positive MemoriesIn a series of experiments, researchers found that adults aged 65 to 85 recalled more information tied to positive than negative experiences. Additionally, the amygdala (emotional center of the brain) showed higher engagement when participants were presented with images having happy associations. Similar to the findings from the study above, your ability to focus on the good is one of the best things that get better with age. This benefit of aging is especially attractive for those who tend to let feelings of resentment, disappointment, and regret linger. The takeaway: When positive, selective memory can be a good thing.
3. Your Ability to Let Go of Negative FeelingsA 2008 survey of 340,000 Americans aged 18 to 85 found that by the age of 50, participants were much less likely to report holding onto stress and anger. In turn, hedonic well-being (affective feelings of happiness, pleasure, etc.) appears to improve by this age. Another study supports this idea, showing that negative emotions become less frequent even through the age of 60. The takeaway: Older people have better things to do than cave into negative thinking.
4. Your Sex LifeYes, you read that correctly! According to a study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, sexual satisfaction can actually get better with age. In Sweden, researchers evaluated the sexual activity of septuagenarians at present and two to three decades prior. They found that over time, men’s sexual activity increased from 47 to 66 percent, while women’s activity increased from 12 to 34 percent. In addition, compared to younger groups, mature participants also cited:
- more positive outlooks on sexuality
- more fulfilling relationships
- stronger mental health
- better sleep
5. Your Decision-Making SkillsAccording to a 2011 study, older populations are better than their younger counterparts at making informed decisions that influence rewards later on. On the other hand, younger participants excelled at independent tasks with short-term rewards in mind. Essentially, while the younger group may have triumphed over the sprints, the older group won the marathon. This study suggests that adults become less impulsive and more rational with age. Further, they appear to be better at fully assessing situations for long-term gain, rather than instant gratification. The takeaway: There’s validity to the saying, “another year older, another year wiser.”
Final ThoughtsWhile aging is inevitable, it’s important to know that the word isn’t synonymous with decline. In many cases, a positive outlook and the refusal to give into perceived burdens or stereotypes are the secrets to aging well. Last but not least, it’ll benefit you to get into the habit of seeing “the bigger picture” sooner than later. From there, remember to keep it in clear view throughout your years. Here’s why: A strong sense of purpose and meaning in life shows positive associations with longevity. And although it’s not a sure shot to extend your life expectancy, a guiding compass can potentially help reduce major health risks. Even better, the drive to chart a path guided by your values is among the best reasons to look forward to each year ahead.
More like this