There’s no denying that ageing involves loss. We lose muscle bulk and strength; our vision, hearing, cognitive function, sense of taste and touch fade; fertility and libido decline. We may sleep poorly and suffer various forms of disease and pain. Yet – in the midst of what would seem to be unremitting doom and gloom – there are surprises. Some things just keep growing and getting better. One of these is emotional wellbeing. A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry reports that despite all of the above, older adults are happier and suffer less stress and anxiety than younger adults. And what can be the cause of this apparent contradiction? Basically the growth of wisdom – the one thing that need never stop developing right up to the last moments of life. Simple wisdom means gratitude for what is, rather than a constant pining for what isn’t. It means recognising that many minor aggravations and sorrows are indeed minor. It means a greater ability to relish the present moment, especially in view of the fact that the number of future moments grows steadily smaller. It means a more conscious enjoyment of friends and family since these will not last forever.
And if we add to this mix a conscious commitment to personal development, then the picture can be even rosier. We can cultivate the body through rest and exercise so that the rate of muscle decline and physical functioning not only slows but can be reversed. And by cultivating the mind and emotions – learning stillness, openness, a readiness always to change and learn – our life wisdom becomes a precious resource that we can offer to those who have the eyes to see and the ears to listen. We become elders in the highest sense of the word – knowledgeable, experienced, cool in our gaze, wise in the ways of people and the world.