The current issue of the Atlantic monthly (December 2014) has a fascinating article on mid life that has great bearing on Boomers. The article, by Jonathan Rauch, is called “The Real Roots of Midlife Crises”. The piece deals a lot with reserach into what is called the “happiness U-curve”. It seems that there is a growing body of research that is telling us that we were not so happy when we were 40, but we are happier now that we are 60, or 70 or more. As we age, we become more aware of being grateful for life and this gift of gratitude seems to unlock a sense of well being or happiness. “It turns out that there is good science about this gift: studies show quite strongly that people’s satisfaction with their life increases on average, from their early 50s on through their 60s and 70s and even beyond.” Rauch notes a Stanford study that showed that “the peak of emotional life may not occur until well into the seventh decade”.
Why? Well, according to that same Stanford study, there is a hypothesis that he notes that: “As people age and time horizons grow shorter…people invest in what is most important, typically meaningful relationships, and derive increasingly greater satisfaction from these investments.” This “happiness u-curve” is a creation of scholars at Brookings Institute which drew on Gallup polls which sought to measure peoples’ satisfaction relative to the best possible life. The curve (which Rauch prints in the article) does show that life satisfaction begins to rise after our 40s. So, how accurate? I do know that as I go arorund teaching workshops on Judaism and aging, many of those in attendance do volunteer the fact that they find themselves at a better place in life, more in touch with their own soul and quite willing to let go of the stresses and strains that marked much of their younger days. Wishful thinking? Fantasy? Or maybe, as the “time horizons grow shorter” we come to realize what is really important. In any event, check out the article. An interesting read and great topic for discussion at your next dinner.
Rabbi Richard F Address, D.Min