Mind Matters: What is good about ageing

When you think of ageing, you probably picture a person losing hair, turning grey, moving slowly, etc. But there is a positive side to ageing.

As individuals get older, they add knowledge. If only I knew in high school what I know now, I would have been a cool guy with a girlfriend.

The main thing I learned in later life is not to worry much what others think of me. Also, when people age, they increase in wisdom.

Experience teaches us valuable lessons every day.  We just need to pay attention. My judgments about how much risk to take in life have sharpened. 

I see that public speaking has little practical risk, but cycling near automobiles has significant risk. 

As individuals age, they tend to increase in wealth. Money cannot buy love, but it can buy just about anything else. Most importantly, having money prevents stress.

With money, a person need not worry about having a run of bad luck and ending up homeless. Money keeps a person from having to depend on others in order to survive.

Some museums and government entities give older folks discounts on admission. You can think of the discount as a prize for holding on to life.

In some ethnic groups, elders are treated with special respect. Aboriginal, Chinese, Korean and other cultures fit this category. 

You might be surprised to learn than once people pass the age of 50, they usually feel happier than younger individuals. Why is that?

It could be the added wisdom or money. It might also be freedom from the pressures of child rearing or the pressures of hustling to get ahead at work. It could also be that the part of the brain that tends to agitate us withers with age. 

I have not noticed an increase in happiness as I have aged. But I may have maxed out as a child. Back then, I had a cowboy outfit with a toy six shooter; I had a nice family; I had books that allowed me to live many lives rather than just one. 

I still have a good family and books. I even have a cowboy outfit. 

Do the benefits of ageing outweigh the unfortunate effects? Perhaps not, but they at least partially balance the negative effects.

When I think about the only alternative to ageing - the option involving the Grim Reaper - I look forward to more ageing.

John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences, University of New England.