Poll links happiness to age

The ancient Greeks viewed aging as a disease. But senior citizens today understand that there are some real benefits to getting older.

A large Gallup poll recently showed that seniors are less troubled by worry, stress and anger than younger people, and that their well-being increases sharply after the age of 50.

Other research found that people are happier in their later years, more satisfied in their marriages than younger couples and enjoying better social relationships. Seniors may have a smaller circle of friends than younger adults, but their relationships are closer and more affectionate. Plus, University of California researchers learned that most people feel better as they age, even if they face health challenges.

Carol Bowman, certified activities director at Good Shepherd Nursing Home in Wheeling, said senior citizens are often more comfortable in their own skin than younger people. She has noticed that residents are less likely to worry about what other people think, and that keeping busy keeps them happy.

“When people retire, they have more time to do things they enjoy,” she said. “So we try to help them keep up with hobbies like knitting, crocheting, doing puzzles, playing the piano or whatever they like.”

Good Shepherd residents Elizabeth McGranahan and Mary Ziolkowski agreed that they are happy at this point in their lives.

“I enjoy thinking about my days as a young bride, and I like remembering when my children were young,” McGranahan said. “But these days I like the outings and the activities at Good Shepherd — those really perk us up.”

Ziolkowski said she likes spending time with her family, including children and grandchildren. “I also like going to Mass every day here in our chapel,” she said.

They also mentioned Good Shepherd’s music program, which Bowman said has become popular with many residents. Nurse Barbara Ball interviews residents and their families to learn their preferences, and then creates personalized playlists on iPods.

“Residents can listen with headphones or earbuds, or we can connect the iPod to speakers for them,” Bowman said. “It really makes them happy to hear their favorite music whenever they like.”

Both residents expressed gratitude for the assistance they receive from Good Shepherd staff.

“If we need help there’s always someone willing to lend a hand,” Ziolkowski said.

Bowman said staff appreciate being able to contribute to residents’ quality of life. “Working with our residents has taught me that growing older doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life,” she said. “We can enjoy each day that is given to us.”


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