As established by several researches worldwide that one of the most serious problems faced by senior citizens is that they often feel ignored, excluded and thereby, depressed and unhappy. The antidote to the problem is to find ways in which the elderly can feel happy and thereby, find purpose in life. What makes a person happy is difficult to answer as the stimuli for happiness is unique for different people. It depends on genetics, upbringing, and perspective of a person towards life and its various contours.
We at My Retired Life Foundation (MRLF) tried to solicit views from a few of our members to find out what triggers happiness in them. The members who were made respondents were from different strata of life: retired bankers / school or college teachers / government employees / private organization employees, all elderly with age ranging from 65 to 80 plus. The findings are varied and show the uniqueness of reasons why elderly people feel happy.
Some of the major reasons opined by various member respondents that made them feel happy include:
>> Being physically fit and being reasonably good to spend time in exercises, mediation and some past time activities like listening to old music, watching movies, hearing news, etc.
>> Financially stable
>> Interaction with like-minded people and being in a community
>> Reading good articles / interesting books
>> Solving Sudoku puzzles
>> Watching a thriller
>> Charity to NGOs
>> Helping child of neighbour in solving homework
>> Enjoy life as it comes and be happy with leisure time
>> Momentary happiness when appreciated by some old acquaintance
>> Guidance to / interacting with grandchildren and other members of family
>> Learning something new and sharing with others
>> Doing a good deed and helping others
>> Having a happy and cohesive family
If one tries to look at the above, one can see that the stimuli of happiness widely vary across the board. All of them stimulate any one or more of the happy hormones: Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin, and Endorphin.
Thus on an overall basis, people can be classified as under:
1. Type 1: People find happiness within and try to be with self to search for happiness. Regular exercises, walking alone, mediation, all in the company with oneself bring happiness to these types of people. We also see such people visiting temples or other places of worship very often to find solace and happiness.
2. Type 2: People find happiness in being with others including family members / grandchildren and sharing happy moments with them. They also try to be in company of friends or other like-minded people or active part of a senior citizen community.
3. Type 3: People feel happy in their extended hobbies like reading books / articles / seeing movies. These people may also search for happiness in developing new passion / hobby and sharing with others. They meaningfully spend time developing new meaning in life.
4. Type 4: Some feel happy to spend time in company of nature and nurturing the nature.
5. Type 5: People feel happy in helping others in times of need including helping through NGOs and / or undertaking charitable activities.
However, the above are not mutually exclusive and an elderly person may get happiness from more than one sources. The bottom-line is that one needs to have a meaningful purpose in life to be happy in whatever they do.
Life is a journey and being happy in a given situation is by choice. Given any situation, we have an option to be unhappy or happy or neutral. If it is a pleasurable event, like birth of a grandchild, we will always be happy; the question is how do we take the adverse circumstances as and when we face them or sometimes, we mentally feel neglected and thereby feel not so happy. It is only in these circumstances that we are tested. Happiness is an attitude and a matter of mindset as we look at life. We can look at life with mirror of happiness or with a lens of unhappiness. To lead a satisfying life, we need to develop an attitude that imbibes us to be happy (or not to be unhappy to say the least) even in the face of not so favourable circumstances. The discussions here give a pointer as to how to develop a mindset of happiness in the elderly people.
(with inputs from Ramani Iyer, Prakash Prahraj, Samatha Sengupta, Krishnaveni Y, S Kumar, Anand Saxena, R K Modi and Hema Santhanam, all members of MRLF).
Dr A K Sen Gupta is Co-Founder and Chief Trustee of My Retired Life Foundation (MRLF). He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 9821128103.