The stereotype that older adults are grumpy, cynical, or obstinate is not only a sweeping generalization, but scientific research has found that our personalities are not fixed by adulthood as previously thought. In fact, personality traits shift and modify throughout our lifetime dialing down some of the darker traits and as we age, older adults develop more emotional control, willpower, and a better sense of humor.
According to a recent BBC 100 Year Life post, researchers have found that by the time people reach their 70s and 80s, they become more altruistic and trusting with antisocial behaviors such as crime or substance abuse tending to decrease. With greater personality maturity, older adults are better able to balance their own expectations with societal demands, leading to increased happiness.
Our personality traits have also been found to be associated with overall well-being as we age. People who a generally open, conscientious, extroverted, and possess higher self-control are more likely to be healthier in later life. With greater resilience, older adults are able to ride out life’s challenges better. That’s why many seniors weathered the last 15 months of a pandemic with greater success – with more life experiences to draw from, older adults could adapt and adopt more of a “this too shall pass” attitude.
Older adults who may not be naturally optimistic can still mindfully cultivate contentment and well-being, even as physical or cognitive abilities decline. By focusing on the positive and what is still possible, staying socially connected and actively engaged, older adults are more likely to age successfully and with greater happiness. Volunteering and continuing to learn new things also helps seniors stay relevant and boost self-esteem and life satisfaction.