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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 17-Mar-16 12:16:37

Are your 60s and 70s your happiest years?

Does true happiness await you in your sixties and seventies? As International Day of Happiness approaches (20 March), author Ruth Whippman argues that as we leave behind the anxiety of our younger years, we're finally able to appreciate the good things in life.

Ruth Whippman

Are your 60s and 70s your happiest years?

Posted on: Thu 17-Mar-16 12:16:37


Lead photo

Does true happiness await us in our 60s and 70s?

When David Cameron suggested introducing a 'National Happiness Index' as an alternative measure of progress to GDP back in 2010, it sounded like a radical policy suggestion. But in reality, the annual 'wellbeing data' that has filtered through from this experiment has a quaintly pointless feel to it. This year, for example, brought the game-changing revelation that we are marginally more likely to be happier than average if we are either a practicing Hindu or live in mid-Sussex.

It's hard to see how much use this can be to anyone on either an individual or a policy level. But in amongst it all, there has been one consistent and surprising finding from which people, of my generation at least, might learn a thing or two.

Happiness peaks in older adulthood, with women in their sixties and seventies the happiest people in Britain. I have my own theories about why this might be, and what women of my age can learn from our mothers' generation when it comes to contentment.

Research shows clearly that the more highly we value and pursue happiness as a singular goal, the more stressed, anxious and even depressed we become. And the kind of happiness rat race that this describes is a very much a feature of young adulthood.

This is a life-stage in which people have the experience to be realistic about what is possible, and in which they no longer yearn to be transformed because they have made peace with who they actually are right now.

Like many people, my twenties and thirties felt like a scramble to pin down the happiest possible life, working punishing hours to develop my career, scouring the available pool of men for a reasonable prospect to father my kids, then struggling to just squeeze those kids in, in a photofinish with the end of my fertility. I was so busy chasing and chewing over my imagined happy-ever-after that I barely had time to stop and appreciate the happiness I was experiencing along the way.

In this fug of stress, many Generation X-ers scramble to adopt whatever is the latest happiness fad to ease the pressure - from gratitude journals to yoga, mindfulness colouring to befriending our inner chimps. But when the self-help books promise "total transformation" it can leave us doubting the people we are at the moment, and lock us into a dreary cycle of self-reproach and self-improvement.

In contrast, by the time they reach their sixties, most people know the basic parameters of their lives, and can just get on with actually living them. Most of the big decisions have already been made, freeing up a huge chunk of brainspace previously allocated for agonizing and overthinking. This is a life-stage in which people have the experience to be realistic about what is possible, and in which they no longer yearn to be transformed because they have made peace with who they actually are right now.

For us in our thirties and forties, this might be the easiest self-help advice we've ever received. No hot yoga contortions, or complicated positive thinking instructions or petulant inner primates. We don't even need to move to mid-Sussex.

All we really have to do to be truly happy, is to wait. It seems that the best really is yet to be.

Ruth's book The Pursuit of Happiness, and Why It's Making Us Anxious is published by Hutchinson and available for order on Amazon.

By Ruth Whippman

Twitter: @Gransnet

wot Thu 17-Mar-16 13:10:37

Marvelous article!

wot Thu 17-Mar-16 13:11:19

But very expensive book!

pollyparrot Thu 17-Mar-16 13:57:43

My happiest times were when my children were small and when I did my A Levels.

In my 60s I'm plagued with worry about my health.

tanith Thu 17-Mar-16 14:13:39

When my children were small in my 20's I was extremely happy, my 30's were pretty dire but then each decade till now just gets better although I do have health issues they are not enough to spoil my enjoyment of these years yet. No point worrying about whats to come .

FarNorth Thu 17-Mar-16 14:55:03

Yes, I'm pretty happy and hoping to keep nasty health surprises to a minimum.
I might still have a go at getting in touch with my inner chimp, though. grin

Thebeeb Thu 17-Mar-16 21:49:17

No don't agree at all.

Leticia Thu 17-Mar-16 22:09:49

I haven't got to my 70s, but so far I agree and I love my 60s. I have my health (the most important) and have time and freedom.
I loved being at home with babies and small children.

The years that I hated were the teenage years, I found them very difficult. I would happily live my life over again if I could leave out 13-19yrs!

pompa Thu 17-Mar-16 22:42:55

I find it quite difficult to remember how happy I was at any particular time of my life. I am happy with my life as it is now most of the time, so try to enjoy the moment.

rosesarered Thu 17-Mar-16 22:47:32

My happiest time was when our children were young, so that was mid thirties through to early forties, a truly happy time for me.

ginny Thu 17-Mar-16 23:43:39

I have found that different things have made me happy at different ages. The one constant is my family.

jenn Fri 18-Mar-16 00:03:25

No work,good health,reasonable pension, loving family...60,s are great

Humbertbear Fri 18-Mar-16 09:00:27

I was particularly happy in my early 50s. I had a new, stimulating job which provided a lot of travel opportunities. I felt fulfilled. Since my late 50s my time seems to have been taken up with caring for three generations of the family. I am busier than ever and clearly needed but not necessarily happy.

Marmight Fri 18-Mar-16 09:57:26

No. I had hoped they would be but being widowed in my early 60's is not my idea of happiest years, I fact, I have never been so sad,miserable and lonely in my life and I feel cheated. Perhaps once I get into my 70's things may change. I think our best decades were 40's and 50's when the children were leaving school, finding their wings, getting married and starting their families.

Anniebach Fri 18-Mar-16 10:09:19


annodomini Fri 18-Mar-16 10:22:19

Until the end of my 70s I won't be able to answer that question. However, I think my 50s will stand out at my best years. Found myself again after divorce, had a fulfilling job and succeeded in local politics. Had a beautiful granddaughter and saw my two sons making their way in the world. Also lots of good holidays.

grannylyn65 Fri 18-Mar-16 10:25:50

No am a grumpy old bat with no life!!!

bookdreamer Fri 18-Mar-16 10:44:49

Ditto grannylynn!

wot Fri 18-Mar-16 11:08:54

Ditto, Book and Grannylyn!

Greyduster Fri 18-Mar-16 11:26:20

No. I got into my stride during my forties and fifties and ground to a halt during my sixties! God knows what my seventies will be like!

Indinana Fri 18-Mar-16 11:46:58

Being in my 60's has brought mixed blessings. If it weren't for my poor health I would definitely say that this is my happiest time, apart from when my children were small. Those years were blissful! But it's pretty easy to work out why now is one of my happiest times - it's because I'm not having to go to work!

My mother, like so many of her generation, never went out to work, and I have to say I've always been pretty envious of her. Although I was lucky to work somewhere that was interesting, lively, diverse, and with friendly and cheerful colleagues, I can't honestly say it would have been my choice to work full-time if finances hadn't demanded it.

So yes, now is one of my happiest life stages because I'm free to do as I please - well, to do as my health will permit, anyway smile

grannylyn65 Fri 18-Mar-16 12:03:23

We like minded folk must arrange a grumpfest of our own !!?

varian Fri 18-Mar-16 15:08:02

When I turned seventy, I looked back and realised that my sixties had been the best decade of my life. I have been very fortunate to have my health and a good marriage, but the three bonuses have been -

1 lovely grandchildren -no-one told me how much I'd enjoy being a granny

2 career fulfillment - I became self employed in my late fifties and my career blossomed

3 finally getting my house the way I'd always wanted it to be -which meant I was much happier to invite lots of friends and family to stay

I do count my blessings but can't help thinking I must make the most of now as you never know what the future will bring.

Floradora9 Fri 18-Mar-16 15:48:20

Certainly not my favourite decades . I much preferred my 30 with two small children plus foster babies to care for .I loved this time and my 40s and 50s working but not full time just enough to enjoy it and enjoy my days off as well . It got me out of the house and made me feel useful again .
By the time you get to your 70s the body begins to creak and it is so sad to loose good friends . We have lost several in the past couple of years and others are in a bad way. It makes you wonder how long it will be before we fall by the wayside as well . I feel life is like these coin machines where you used to roll a penny down to win at the fair . Sometimes none fell out for you to win sometimes they hovered on the edge but did not fall and sometimes an unexpected one fell . You never know which you will be .

Wendysue Fri 18-Mar-16 16:12:57

I'm enjoying my 60s for a variety of reasons... My beloved GC, seeing my adult DDs move forward successfully with their lives, and the fact that I no longer feel the pressure to be in fashion, etc. (ok, that kind of went out in my early 50s, I'm happy to say). DH and I each have a couple of health issues, but, fortunately for us, they're minor, so don't put a big damper on our happiness.

But I won't say these are the "happiest" days of my life. As others have said, my 30s, when my kids were little were very happy, too. And I had a lovely childhood. Like Leticia, my least favorite years were when my girls were teenagers - Groan! (Looking back, I realize, my own teen years weren't among my favorites either!)

IMO, it really depends on the individual and their personal history.