Aging brings turkey necks, "senior moments" and sagging bodies. Sounds pretty dismal, right? It would -- if that represented the complete picture. In actuality, growing older for most people isn't all that bad, even in our youth-obsessed culture. In fact, it can be quite spectacular on many fronts. Below are nine aging facts that will actually make you feel great about the multitude of candles on your cake. Have anything to add? Let us know in comments.
You most likely are happier than you used to be.
One recent study found that people were happiest in youth and then again in their 70s and early 80s. They were least happy during middle age. A similar study out of the University of Chicago found that levels of happiness climbed between the ages of 65 and 85 -- and beyond. Why? Some experts believe it is because older people are able to tap into the toolbox of social and emotional instincts they've built with experience. “It’s a very encouraging fact that we can expect to be happier in our early 80s than we were in our 20s,” Andrew J. Oswald, a professor of psychology at Warwick Business School, told the New York Times. “And it’s not being driven predominantly by things that happen in life. It’s something very deep and quite human that seems to be driving this.”
In some ways, your mind may actually be sharper.
A University of Illinois study found that older air traffic controllers excelled at their mentally tough jobs -- and performed as well as younger peers -- because they were so good at navigation and at handling several airplanes at once. In short, they were able to overcome any weaknesses by tapping into their wealth of experience. For those of you worried about staying sharp, challenge your brain by performing mental exercises and don't buy in to the negative stereotypes associated with aging and memory.
You are able to handle social conflicts more effectively.
A University of Michigan study found that older people are better at reasoning when it comes to social dilemmas and conflicts. When presented with various stories about conflict, they specifically are more adept at understanding different perspectives, suggesting compromises and coming up with several reasonable resolutions.
Your vote counts more than ever.
In the November 2010 election, about 61 percent of citizens age 65 and older cast ballots -- the best turnout of any age group. As the ranks swell even more, older people will have a lot more clout in the years to come than ever before.
You are probably enduring fewer migraines.
Studies show that migraines become less frequent and less severe as you age. Indeed the nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and other symptoms seem to subside as you grow older. Migraines are most common between your teenage years and the age of 50.
Your sex life may be better.
Studies show that satisfaction in the bedroom actually grows stronger with age, even if you experience a drop in sexual desire. More specifically, one study out of the University of California, San Diego found that the majority of women aged 60 to 89 were moderately to very satisfied with their sex lives. Even so, doctors say that vaginal dryness and impotence can still present a problem to older adults.
You aren't nearly as stressed as you used to be.
No doubt everyone experiences stress, no matter what their age. But the good news is that people over 65 report having less stress. Although they do cite health concerns, worries over work, money and family subside. Meanwhile, those between the ages of 35 and 49 are the most stressed, followed by people aged 25 to 34.
Your marriage is stronger.
Studies have discovered that marriage actually gets better in old age. One reason is that long-time couples learn how to express more affection, especially after the kids leave home. Another reason is that the stresses of marriage in middle age actually brought couples closer together as the years went on. Being happily married is definitely a good thing as satisfied couples are more likely to enjoy better mental and physical health than their not-so-happy friends.
You like your job more.
In one recent study, 92 percent of workers aged 50 or older report being very or somewhat satisfied with their job. Compare that with those under 30; only 80 percent of this group reports the same thing. Only 38 percent of young adults admit being very satisfied with their work, while 63 percent of those 65 and older say they are deeply satisfied. Why the difference? Experts say it's most likely because older workers have already made it up the corporate ladder to positions they enjoy more.