Too often, we talk about aging in negative terms. While it's true that we decline in some areas like muscle mass and skin elasticity, but there are some very real advantages.
Think that's a joke? It's not at all. Check out the real gains we make as we grow older. Personally, I'd exchange a couple of these sweet benefits for some crow's feet!
You have a good shot at being happier
Happiness increases with age, which may seem counterintuitive, but several studies have shown that it's true. Happiness is lowest from mid-30s to mid-40s for most and peaks in the 60s. A Pew survey found that most older people discover that life turned out better than expected, and a well-cited study by the University of Warwick found that the young and the old are the happiest. See actual data from the National Bureau of Economic Research below:
The young and the old are happiest, with middle-age seeing a decline. (Photo: Dr. Andre Oswald/National Bureau of Economic Research)
Your sense of taste gets more refined
After age 40, your taste buds reproduce themselves more slowly. For younger people, they are replaced every two weeks, but as you age a smaller number of them regenerate each time one dies. That's why younger people taste the bitterness of vegetables, or the hoppiness of beer more. But the thing about taste (and smell) is that it's not just about taste receptors. It's also about experience and knowledge — how the brain understands what is being consumed.
“The big predictor of whether someone will like something like bitter melon or hoppy beer isn’t their sensitivity to bitterness,” Marcia Pelchat, a sensory psychologist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center told Bon Appetit magazine. “It’s their exposure to it, their motivation, their interest. It’s all cultural stuff.”
So having fewer taste buds isn't really as important as having a store of knowledge about what you're eating — which can only be gained over years and many meals.
You'll probably get fewer migraines
If you suffer from migraines, aging is on your side. In a Swedish study, Dr. Carl Dahlof, who founded the Gothenburg Migraine Clinic, looked at 374 migraine patients, who he followed over a 12-year period. For about 30 percent of the patients, their migraines had disappeared completely over the years. And 80 percent reported fewer episodes, with more than half (66 percent) saying that even when they did get a migraine, they were less painful and didn't last as long.
Managing emotions becomes easier
As anyone who has watched a 3-year-old child melt down in a tantrum can attest, learning how to regulate your emotions is one of the challenges of growing up. But that self-knowledge doesn't stop at age 25 when your brain finally matures into its adult setup. Our reaction to challenges continues to become fine tuned as we move through life.
A 2010 study found, "Subjects in their 60s were better than younger ones at imagining different points of view, thinking of multiple resolutions and suggesting compromises." And according to Barbara Strauch's book, "The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain", as we age our judgement and financial decision-making improve too. Watch Strauch talk about it here.
You'll have fewer sleep issues
At the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania, researchers found that people in their 70s and 80s had the fewest complaints about sleep. The surprising results of the large survey — that polled 150,000 adults of all ages — were published in the journal Sleep. Michael Vitiello, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, and an expert on sleep and aging told Health magazine, “I’ve been on the ‘It isn’t aging, it’s illness’ bandwagon for many years. It’s a treatable disorder. Much of the sleep disturbance seen in older adults is not driven by aging, but by illness.If you’re healthy, you’re probably sleeping quite well, even into your 80s."
Maybe sleep improves with age because those folks are worrying less, feeling happier, and don't have headaches?
Related on MNN:
- 7 anti-aging techniques to help you make it to the century mark
- Photo project shows men and women aging from 1 to 100
- 3-D facial imaging reveals how fast you're aging