On Friendship, Love, and the Benefits of Aging

Aging WellFor whatever reason, I am confronted with the issues of aging (and death…) a lot over the recent weeks. My mom had to go to the hospital, and in my circle of friends, parents got sick as well – or even died. And while that is distressing and painful emotionally, I know rationally that getting old(er) is nothing to be afraid of. Because getting older (for most of us) means getting happier. We get less anxious, more satisfied, and get to a deeper understanding of the meaning of (our) life.

While being on the plane that brought me to Philly for the MAPP onsite, I watched the movie Last Vegas starring Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Kline. It´s a fun-loving, pleasantly over-the-top “geriatric” version of Hangover. Most of all, it´s a story of aging well – and the power of (life-long) friendship.

Triumphs of ExperienceCoincidently, one of the guest lecturers of this month´s MAPP onsite has been (some 80 years old) George Vaillant, who´s been the director of the world-famous (Harvard) Grant Study – which for 75 years followed the lives of 268 physically and mentally healthy Harvard college sophomores from the classes of 1939-1944, and a second cohort of 456 disadvantaged non-delinquent inner-city youths who grew up in Boston neighborhoods between 1940 and 1945. Vaillant writes about the results of this study in his books Aging Well (2003) and Triumphs of Experience (2012). There´s lots of interviews available with Vaillant – here, I´ll point you to one for the Huffington Post. Two main points that came out of the study:

Love is really all that matters.

Connection is crucial.

There you have it. The Beatles were right: All you need is love. My parents will both turn 70 next year. And by March 2014, they will be married for 46 years. I hope that my wife and I one day will achieve the same…

If you´d like to have more input, please watch this TED talk on the benefits of aging by Laura Carstensen who is Director of Stanford´s Center on Longevity.

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