The 5 Keys to Happiness at Every Age

The “pursuit of happiness” is a cornerstone of American life, so much so that it is included in the preamble to the U.S. Constitution. Yet, achieving that state of happiness can seem elusive at times. Every stage of life has its challenges, and finding ways to be happy in the face of those challenges can sometimes be a challenge in itself. As people age they generally report feeling higher levels of fulfillment and satisfaction. Here are five key ways to be happy at any age:

1. Physical health

It’s probably no surprise that maintaining physical health is a chief contributor to happiness. In a Harvard study that spanned nearly 80 years, they found that physical health was a predictor of happiness. Specifically, those who were happiest quit smoking or never started in the first place, didn’t abuse alcohol, exercised regularly and maintained a healthy weight. 

If ascribing to that lifestyle seems daunting, consider taking one small step in the direction of better health. As we age and experience aches and pains, it can be easy to focus on what is no longer working as well in our bodies. One strategy for maintaining happiness at any age is to focus instead on what still works and what we can still do. Find a friend to walk with, a class that teaches how to cook healthy recipes or a support group focused on the habit you’d like to change. Options like these may be more accessible in a senior or independent living community.

2. Emotional Health

The Covid-19 pandemic brought the importance of emotional health to the forefront of our awareness. Having to quarantine forced many into isolation, especially older generations. According to the National Institute of Health, “Studies show that loneliness and social isolation are associated with higher risks for health problems such as heart disease, depression, and cognitive decline.” One possible solution to social isolation is to choose to live in a senior or independent living community.

Another solution is to develop coping strategies. In the Harvard study referenced above, the men who exhibited what we would now call “emotional resilience” — the ability to bounce back from life’s inevitable ups and downs — were happier. Research and advice on how to manage stress is plentiful, but the bottom line is that cultivating a positive attitude about life leads to greater satisfaction. Meditation, exercise, and other activities can improve emotional resilience. 

One surefire way to feel better is to practice an attitude of gratitude.

3. Learning

Humans like to learn. It is satisfying to increase knowledge, master a new skill or be exposed to new ideas. What we learn is largely up to us as we enter our golden years. Trying new things and continuing to learn keeps us engaged in life, our minds sharp, and encourages us to adapt and grow. 

Generations communities foster lifelong learning through activities like book groups, choirs, and even college courses.

4. Spirituality & Purpose

Regardless of religious affiliation, spirituality and a sense of purpose fuel life satisfaction. Feeling connected to something greater than ourselves can help put our daily woes into perspective and provide hope. Having a sense of purpose, no matter how small, makes us feel needed. 

5. Build Relationships

Last, but definitely not the least contributor to happiness, is investing in satisfying relationships. This finding was the greatest surprise to the researchers of the Harvard study:

“Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives, the study revealed. Those ties protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes. ” 

Senior Living Communities Make it Easy

One of the great advantages of moving into a senior living or independent living community is that they make it much easier to build relationships and reduce social isolation, engage in physical activity and continue to learn. Depending on the community you choose, different levels of programs and activities may be available right on campus. 

Through their Vitality programs, Generations communities offer a multitude of activities which foster physical, mental, and spiritual growth according to the needs and preferences of each individual. At every Generations community, you’ll find a wide variety of activities including education courses, book clubs, writing groups, daily fitness classes, musical entertainment, meditation and mindfulness opportunities, religious services, and outdoor pursuits.

An older woman sits with a cup of tea and a book. She is gazing out into the room feeling gratitude.
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