Do We Change with Aging?

The general idea of aging seems to be wrinkles, forgetfulness, and slower movements. But science is painting another, more in-depth picture of this age group. The elderly tend to become more happy, open-minded, and in many cases remain pretty darn sharp as they get older. Here are seven ways we change as we get older.

The Perks of Getting Older

1. Becoming more open minded.

As wrinkles set in, so do a person’s rigid beliefs, many people have long assumed. Not true, according to a survey of more than 46,000 Americans between 1972 and 2004. While the study didn’t follow individuals as they aged, the results represent snapshots of the changing attitudes of respondents in different age groups. Over time, adults’ attitudes got more liberal regarding politics, economics, race, gender, religion and sexuality issues. While the results don’t mean your grandma is sure to revert to becoming a hippie, on average older adults will head in that direction.

2. Need less sleep.

In a study of 110 healthy adults who were allowed eight hours of bed time, the oldest group (ages 66 to 83) slet about 20 minutes less than the middle-agers (ages 40 to 55), who in turn slept about 23 minutes less than the youngest group (ages 20 to 30). The simplest explanation? Older adults need less sleep. Another explanation, supported by research, is that getting older makes it harder to get the sleep you need, taking longer to nod off, spending less time in deep sleep, and having more trouble staying asleep.

3. Still love to laugh.

Laughing is good for you, science has shown. That’s good news for older adults who still appreciate humor and enjoying life. Aging does not affect emotional responses to humor. We’ll still enjoy a good laugh when we get the joke. This is important because it is integral to social interaction and it has long been postulated that humor may enhance quality of life, assist in stress management, and help us cope with the stresses of getting older.

4. Enhanced positivity.

A study published in 2008 by Yang Yang, a sociologist at the University of Chicago, suggests the increase in lifespan that’s occurred since the 1970s has been linked with an increase in years of happiness. Whether well-being stays strong in old age could come down to a person’s attitude. Research has shown older adults remember the past through a rose-colored lens; they are more optimistic than younger individuals and just as much interested in enjoying life.

As with most things in life, aging gracefully and happily has everything to do with a positive attitude. Expect your golden years to be enjoyable, and most likely they will be!