December 10th, 2016| Topic: RaMbLeS | 0


It is inevitable. You age. And things begin to fall apart. Your mind and your body. They crumble. Till you die. (Nice thought, huh?)

But there is something called the “paradox of aging.” An upside to the downturn. And that is that your mood, sense of well-being, and your ability to tackle stress actually keep improving till your last day! A paradox, indeed.

Researchers noted all this in “Paradoxical Trend for Improvement in Mental Health With Aging: A Community-Based Study of 1,546 Adults Aged 21–100 Years,” in the Journal for Clinical Psychiatry the other day.

About 1,500 San Diegans, from 21 to 99, were studied. Those in the 20s were found to be the most stressed and most depressed; those in the 90s, the most content. No there weren’t any dips in the middle or any tapering off at the end. It was a simple linear increase from young to old: the older folks were, the happier they felt!

Noted main author Dr. Dilip Jeste:

The consistency was really striking. People who were in older life were happier, more satisfied, less depressed, had less anxiety and less perceived stress than younger respondents.”

Other scientists don’t think this is a paradox at all.

Said Dr. Laura Carstensen of the Stanford Center on Longevity:

When people face endings they tend to shift from goals about exploration and expanding horizons to ones about savoring relationships and focusing on meaningful activities. When you focus on emotionally meaningful goals, life gets better, you feel better, and the negative emotions become less frequent and more fleeting when they occur.”

In fact, brain imaging studies show that older folks are less responsive to stressful images than are younger ones. While pictures of smiling babies elicited the same increased “happy” activation, images of a car accident evoked more activity in the emotional regions of younger brains. Older folks are like: been there, done that.

[Then again, maybe you just can’t remember most things, including the bad stuff, which, of course, is tremendously helpful for one’s equanimity. And as you grow older, you have more things you want to forget. Amnesia is not a bad thing!]

Dr. Jeste speculates that it might have more to do with wisdom …

… a multi-component personality trait that includes empathy, compassion, self-knowledge, openness to new ideas, decisiveness, emotional regulation and doing things for others rather than for yourself. As we get older, we make better social decisions because we are more experienced, and that’s where wisdom comes into play.”

In several places in the Bible, “gray hair” signifies all these good things about age: dignity, wisdom, honor, and so on.

The glory of young men is their strength,
And the honor of old men is their gray hair.
A gray head is a crown of glory;
It is found in the way of righteousness.
Proverbs 16:3; 20:29

And …

They [the righteous] will still yield fruit in old age;
They shall be full of sap and very green.
Psalm 92:14

So the fountain of youth may not be all that appealing after all. In any case, consider aging something to look forward to.

Especially because God still cares for the aged.

The Psalmist pleads:

Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
Do not forsake me when my strength fails.
 Psalm 71:9

To that God says:

Even to your old age I will be the same,
And even to your graying years I will bear you!
I have done it, and I will carry you;
And I will bear you and I will deliver you.
Isaiah 46:4

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