age and happiness

Imagine a bunch of 35 year olds and a bunch of 85 year olds.  Which is happier? The 35-year-olds, right? That’s what each group answers.  But ask each to assess its own well-being and the older people come out ahead. This fact surprises (even me! even though I’ve written about it a lot!) because we’re so deeply conditioned to envision life after youth as decline.  Yet it turns out that “Although as people move towards old age they lose things they treasure—vitality, mental sharpness and looks—they also gain what people spend their lives pursuing: happiness.”

Who’s going to support Granny when she can’t support herself?”

“Women: can’t live with ‘em, can’t kill ‘em.” Men too:  “Can’t live with ‘em, can’t shoot ‘em.” Same goes for old people, as Susan Jacoby writes in her jeremiad about old age in America, Never Say Die:  “If we are not going to kill Granny, we are going to have to support Granny.”

The 65+ worker: healthy, wealthy, and not paid a lot

Yay for the Center for Retirement Research, which is doing its part to rectify the dearth of research on workers age 65 and up.  Dubbing their subjects “the elderly,” a paper by economists Steven Haider and David Loughran titled “Elderly Labor Supply: Work or Play?” looks at who in this group works, at what, and why they stop. Here are some of their findings, some predictable and some considerably less so: