Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Does Older Mean Wiser?

Most often, we associate aging with decline. Many people think of youth as the summit of energy and vitality. Once you pass whatever year you associate with your youthful and vigorous prime, its all downhill. Your powers decline, your health declines, your faculties decline. You know less about computers and technology, and your taste in music runs toward the archaic and anachronistic.

Given the negative connotations of aging, no one wants to have anything to do with it. Our culture encourages us to spend extraordinary amounts of money to look like we never age. From Botox to cosmetic surgery, from lotions to potions, from high fashion to spanx... we do everything in our power to look young and youthful.

It isn't just that we want to be loved, though that is certainly part of it, but also that we want to be respected. Respect seems to involve being cool and does not allow gray hairs or wrinkles.

In the past wrinkles denoted character; now they suggest that you cannot afford Botox.

If you were wondering how a culture promotes depression, this is surely one place to look.

Luckily, we now have evidence that aging is not all a loss. Since no one would believe it without there being concrete, scientific evidence, researchers have set up experiments to study the correlation between age and wisdom. They have discovered that wisdom is not just a compensation for your declining life force; it is a positive social value. Link here.

What do we mean by wisdom here? Mostly, it involves social skills. Older people are more prone to seek compromise, to work to help everyone to get along, to negotiate differences of opinion, to respect the opinions of others, and to resolve conflicts.

Older people value social harmony and their life experience has taught them how to bring it about and to preserve it.
Perhaps that is why, to the surprise of many, older people tend to be happier than younger people.

If you are young and involved in complex and difficult social situations, then you would do well to seek the counsel of someone older and wiser.

Just a suggestion.

[FYI-- Here is a slightly different take on the topic of aging and happiness, via Neo-neocon. Link here.]

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