February 15, 2022
It has taken nearly 80 years and a variety of scientific studies to discover how to achieve a more joyful life for older adults: and a good genetic makeup and wealth really have little to do with it. The Harvard Study of Adult Development began in 1938, looking into the lives of high-profile participants such as John F. Kennedy and Ben Bradlee. Over the years, it is been expanded to incorporate inner-city residents along with offspring from the original Harvard elite, and the outcomes were surprising, to say the least.
The results from the study established that the most effective predictors of a long and joyful life for seniors were not IQ, genetics, fame, finances, or social status, but quite simply close relationships. Robert Waldinger, director of the research study and a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital as well as a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, shares,
“The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80. Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.”
Psychiatrist George Vaillant who spearheaded the research study between 1972 – 2004, shared in his book “Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the Landmark Harvard
Study of Adult Development,” the contributing factors that forecast healthy aging:
- The absence of smoking and alcohol abuse
- Physical activity
- Mature mechanisms in place to cope with challenges in life
- Sustaining a healthy weight
- Having a stable marriage
In a nutshell, self-care is essential to our level of joy – from the perspective of both physical and mental health – and devoting effort to making your relationships the best they can be definitely falls under that umbrella as well. As a matter of fact, subsequent research studies have revealed that the level of contentment individuals experience in their relationships is an even better determinant of what their physical health will be later in life than physical factors such as cholesterol levels.
The research also upended prior thinking that our personalities are carved in stone by 30 years old. Many people who struggled in their early adult years enjoyed happier later years, while others excelled early in life but fell apart in later years because of alcoholism and depression.
The study is ongoing, looking into its third and fourth generations, as researchers believe there is still more to learn, such as how to better regulate stress and whether a difficult childhood makes a difference in middle age and later years.
Let Continuum’s knowledgeable caregivers help instill joy in an older adult’s life; contact us today! Our caregivers serve as friendly companions to take part in exercise, conversations, and pleasant activities together, cultivating socialization and additional relational connections. You can reach us any time at (314) 863-9912 or (636) 861-3336 to arrange a complimentary in-home consultation to find out more information. We provide home care in St Charles, MO and the surrounding area.