Ezekiel Emanuel, the famous bioethicist and Ivy League professor, recently wrote an essay explaining why he’d like to die around age 75. For many, he reasons, it’s all downhill from there. Better to leave life in good shape and on his own terms, he argues.
Then, a few weeks ago, David Brooks published an op-ed in The New York Times, taking issue with Emanuel’s grim outlook on old age.
“The problem,” Brooks writes, “is that if Zeke dies at 75, he’ll likely be missing his happiest years.”
Indeed, senior citizens consistently report more widespread happiness than any other age group in America. That fact stands in stark contrast to the grumpy, cantankerous stereotypes we often find in the media.
Researchers have long noted that happiness and age tend to correlate along a bell curve.
People in their twenties love life and consistently say they’re very happy. Middle age, meanwhile, seems to bring on “the sour years.” After their fifties, though, people start getting happy again — and fast.
By the time seniors reach their early eighties, their rates of contentment are through the roof. Truly, if numbers are to be believed, those appear to be the happiest years of life.
Experts think it’s a combination of biology and life experience that lead to the U shape of lifelong happiness. Brooks says he likes to think of elderly joy as an achievement — a nice outlook, indeed.
It’s a lovely thought to know that happy days are still ahead for all of us. And, as The New York Times reminds us, that’s not just optimism. It’s fact.