Ain't no party like a quilting bee party

Older Americans are happier than the rest of us. Can we stop freaking out about aging now?

By Sarah Hepola

Published April 21, 2008 1:52PM (EDT)

We American women are a wee bit concerned about aging. Maybe you've noticed this. Frankly, it can be rather harrowing to grow older -- to watch the lines etch into your skin, to spot those stray, spiraling gray hairs, to discover that the best, fastest way to get into your high school bikini might be amputation. But while Nora Ephron freaks out about her neck, and some former beauty editor gives us lessons on "How Not to Look Old," I have good news for you: The happiest Americans are the oldest.

Well, that's according to new research, which suggests that old age isn't the wasteland of shuffleboard and colonoscopy rap sessions we might have feared. Of course, it's not all table dances in the retirement homes, either: As one expert states, "A certain amount of distress in old age is inevitable, including aches, pains and deaths of loved ones and friends. But older people generally have learned to be more content with what they have than younger adults."

I find this research not at all surprising, and not just because I await the day when I can finally give up the ghost and embrace adult diapers. I fear that the rest of us are so riddled with anxiety about success, money and the state of our necks that we fritter away what's precious -- our health, our families, the ability to chew solid food. I know we're all supposed to wish we were 20 years old and puking in a garbage can, but maybe it's not so bad to leave those years behind us. I, for one, dig a quilting bee. And here's an encouraging piece of news: "In general, the odds of being happy increased 5 percent with every 10 years of age." Also, don't forget: senior discount!

Sarah Hepola

Sarah Hepola is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir, "Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget."

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