The academic journal, Psychology and Aging, published a paper by Dr. Laura Carstensen, et al., entitled "Emotional Experience Improves With Age: Evidence Based on Over 10 Years of Experience Sampling" in November of 2010.
For Boomers and anyone marketing to them, it is a watershed piece. The Stanford Center on Longevity's recent newsletter provided a link to the full paper (PDF), should you want to plow though it. It is an academic research paper, so have a Red Bull (sugar-free) handy.
Let us give you the four key findings.
As people age, emotional experience becomes more positive.
That's right. Older people are happier people. In fact, the data suggests that overall emotional well-being improves up until one reaches his or her 70's, then it levels off.
This flies in the face of aging stereotypes and beliefs about aging by younger people that old age is a time of sadness and loss.
As people age, there is a greater stability in emotional experience.
The wild swings between negative and positive emotions lessen. Our ability to "regulate" our emotions improves with age. Think about it, when was the last time you saw a child throw a temper tantrum? How about someone over the age of 50?
As people age, emotional experiences become more mixed, with positive and negative emotions increasingly likely to occur during the same "emotional moment."
Dr. Carstensen refers to this as "poignancy." She acknowledges that not all older people are uniformly happy, but factoring in health and other variables, older people are able to have both positive and negative emotions simultaneously - like gratitude accompanied by a sense of fragility, or happiness tinged with sadness.
Our take on this is that older people see the "gray" in everything - nothing is black or white. Everything comes with a shade of gray.
People who have relatively positive emotional profiles live longer than people with relatively negative emotional profiles.
That's right, Bobby McFerrin was onto something. "Don't Worry, Be Happy" is one way to make sure you live longer. Who says we don't control our own destinies?
For our academically-inclined readers: Dr. Carstensen and her colleagues studied the emotional well-being of a representative sample of adults across a wide age range over a 13-year period. Rather than construct a study to measure one's recollection about how they felt about something, this study was designed to collect 35 emotional moments in time over a week-long observation period for 19 different emotional states.
Boomer Bottom Line: Marketers who continue to portray old age and older people as unhappy, sad, downtrodden and desperately wanting to be young again will miss the boat.
What's next for Boomers is an exciting, positive and emotionally satisfying stage of life. Don't bring us down.
Take it from here, Bobby McFerrin:
In your life expect some trouble
But when you worry
You make it double
Don't worry, be happy......