Old Age Is Something to Look Forward To

Barbra Streisand famously sang about memories of “the way we were.” But what if our best memories are still to come?

An interesting debate recently played out on the op/ed page of The New York Times. In response to noted professor Ezekiel Emanuel’s assertion that it’s best to die by one’s mid-70s and avoid years of gradual decline, columnist David Brooks argued that our last years are actually our best.

“If [Professor Emanuel] dies at 75,” Brooks opined, “he’ll likely be missing his happiest years. People in their 20s rate [their happiness] highly. Then there’s a decline…. bottoming out around age 50. But then happiness levels shoot up… the people who rate themselves most highly are those ages 82 to 85.”

Indeed, week after week, we see new stories and studies about the ever-blossoming elder population in America. The Times cites scientific studies about changes in the brain that actually cause increased happiness in elders. But much of it, Brooks reckons, is the result of a long life well lived.

Take Streisand, for instance. At age 72, she just released one of the bestselling albums of her career, becoming the first recording artist in history to score a #1 album in six different decades. It’s already gone Gold!

While promoting the album, Streisand rounded the late-night circuit in high spirits, talking at great length about the hard-earned happiness she feels.

We may not all sell half a million records before we’re 80, but there’s no reason to think we won’t have that same glow of fulfillment on our faces.