Older Adults More Generous, Helpful, and Happy

With age comes wisdom, and according to recent research, older adults are also kinder, more generous, and compassionate.  As people inch closer to retirement age, and life may begin to slow down enough for greater reflection, many older adults discover they are less ambitious and more interested in fostering relationships and helping others. 

As reported recently by the Wall Street Journal, a Toronto Ryerson University study of more than 1,000 participants found that despite differences in education or wealth, older people consistently demonstrated more altruistic behaviors than their younger counterparts.   The research, published in the journal Psychology and Aging, demonstrates that older adults donate more money to charity both in real life and in hypothetical circumstances 

A University of Birmingham study, published in Psychological Science found that participants over 55 were willing to put in more effort for a monetary reward for others than for themselves.  Older people still worked to get a reward for themselves but they were much more likely to make a strong effort for others than the participants aged 18-35. 

Not only do older people generally become more generous, but they also report greater life satisfaction and happiness.  With more experience, older adults tend to focus on the positive aspects of life – enjoying the small daily joys, close relationships, and worrying less about getting ahead and more about making every moment count. 

It follows that those older adults who volunteer regularly experience a greater sense of purpose and happiness derived from helping others.  Whether helping adult children or grandchildren with financial or other assistance or sharing time and skills with people in need, volunteering has been found to have a positive effect on health and well-being.  Interacting with people of all ages helps older adults stay connected and relevant, improving their quality of life and encouraging social engagement and activity.