By Iris Ruth Pastor 

I never thought it could happen, but it did.

Studies show that as people age they get happier.

How can this be?

We have more health-related issues: 

     High blood pressure

     Faulty hips and knees begging for replacement

     Frozen shoulders 

     Arthritic fingers

     Acid reflux

     Lower back pain 

We spend more time in doctor offices. We get colonoscopies regularly. Stress tests. Blood drawn. And we routinely find ourselves at rehab centers readjusting our parts that are wearing out.

And we worry that Pickle-ball — that ubiquitous sport boomers are embracing in droves — will result in our permanent physical demise.

We have more walkers, crutches and raised commodes in our garages than strollers and bicycles — unless they are our grandkids.

On top of that, friends are becoming ill at an alarming rate and we are more apt to have our social lives increasingly revolve around visits to convalescing friends in assisted living centers. And we are going to less Brit Milahs, B’nai Mitzvahs and weddings and more funerals. Too plentiful to mention.

And then there are our idols, like Neil Diamond, 82 years old, known as “the Jewish Elvis.” He recently gave a candid interview on CBS Sunday Morning about the reality of living with Parkinson’s disease after being in denial since receiving his diagnosis in 2018. 

And, yet, I must admit, at age 75, I’m happier than I have been in a long time.

Part of it is because as I’m entering the winter of my years, I’m more conscious of not letting the minor irritants of life get to me.

And when it comes to family relations, I have finally arrived at the stage I’ve been working toward for the last two decades: calmness and a non-judgmental attitude (most of the time).

I’m going with the flow.

I’m not being overly sensitive. 

And I’m not looking for things to be overly sensitive about. 

I’m not dwelling on those things that have aggravated me in the past and ruminating incessantly about those same issues in the present.

As a result, I am less needy around my kids — more relaxed and easy-going — which leads to them extending to me more opportunities to be with them.

From Scientific American, I learn that as people grow older, they tend to experience what psychologists call the age-related positivity effect—an increasing focus on positive events and happy feelings.

I am at the forefront of the boomer generation and as we give up our sports cars, boats, and family homes where we raised our children, we are squarely confronted with life’s fragility. As Bill Clinton once remarked, “We have more yesterdays behind us than tomorrows ahead of us.”

Yet, psychologists have found that when individuals of any age are reminded of life’s fragility, their priorities shift toward emotional goals such as feeling happy and seeking meaningful activities.

Seniors with still healthy minds accentuate the positive. Studies have discovered that when seniors are shown pictures depicting negative situations (funerals, plane crashes, angry faces), they look away faster than younger people do. On the other hand, seniors fix their gaze longer on images of good stuff: little babies, smiling kids, cute kittens, perky dogs and happy faces. And just like their attention, the memory of older people is skewed toward the positive.

Studies find that the happiness seen in older people reflects a change over time, rather than a consistently sunny personality from the get-go. This suggests that we tend to  remember things as being more positive than they actually have  been! 

A few years back, I was having a conversation with my oldest son about how his father and I not only had an amiable divorce, but a very enjoyable relationship post-divorce while our children were young.

My son looked at me strangely and remarked that he didn’t quite remember it as rosy as I did.