A few years ago, New York Times journalist John Leland started following the lives of six New Yorkers over 85 years old. Our blog followers may remember our 2015 article A Snapshot of NYC's Oldest Old, One of NYC's Largest, and Most Ignored, Demographics. It talked about the common challenges this older community faces, like loss of movement, being treated like children, and loneliness. Yet Leland's latest article relates the triumphant character of these six souls--four of whom are still living and in their 90s--and found they all exhibit a surprising resiliency; one he says would shame most 25-year-olds.
Although Leland's focus is on a handful of aging New Yorkers, this outlook and way of being is no phenomenon--scholars who study aging call it "the paradox of old age." As it turns out, as people age and begin losing their physical and mental capacities, they actually tend toward positivity rather than despondence.
As it also turns out, this phenomenon is not reserved for the elderly. Our October article "Does Death Get Less Scary As It Gets Closer" talks about an optimism that is shared by terminally ill patients and even inmates on death row.
So what's the message? In Leland's words, "If you want to be happy, learn to think like an old person."