Many of our SAGE supporters have asked to be kept up on information related to Successful Aging. We recently alerted them to the publication of Triumphs of Experience, a book by the head of the Grant Study of Adult Development at Harvard University. Showing, as it does, the impact of both circumstances and choices on aging, the book is a great addition to the Successful Aging bookshelf.
The study, which began in 1938, meticulously tracked the lives of 268 Harvard men students from that time forward. Collecting data at repeated intervals over 75 years about various points of interest—physical, emotional, mental, etc.—the study tracks not only what happened to its various participants as they aged, but helps to understand why things turned out the way they did. While the study was limited to a rather privileged group of male participants (as was Harvard in those days), many of its conclusions have application to society generally.
One of the consistent messages of SAGE’s Successful Aging initiative is that there’s no one “magic bullet” when it comes to creating a rewarding and successful life into ones 80’s and 90’s. This too is the Study’s conclusion. The book closes with the following:
“[W]hen it comes to healthy aging, everything really is connected to everything else. A happy old age requires both physical health and mental health. For mental health, love is a necessity. So is being alive. So is being able to think straight. We need physical and cognitive competence to build the social surrounds that give us love and support later on, and it is love and support that encourage us to care for ourselves well and keep ourselves healthy, even when the going gets rough. . . . . The ninety-year-olds of the Grant Study took good care of themselves and of their important relationships. And for the most part, they’ve been very happy to be alive."