Does Old Age Bring Happiness?

Citation metadata

Date: Dec. 12, 2014
Publisher: The New York Times Company
Document Type: Letter to the editor
Length: 784 words
Lexile Measure: 1140L

Document controls

Main content

Full Text: 

To the Editor:

Re ''Why Elders Smile,'' by David Brooks (column, Dec. 5):

Really? The happiest time in your life is when you are 82 to 85 years old? I don't think so. Where did those researchers find those octogenarians? I certainly have not met them.

People I know in this age group and younger are fighting the battle of an aging body. Happiness for a senior is having a week without a doctor's appointment. As a 77-year-old, I don't know anyone my age or older who would say this is the happiest time of his or her life.

RUTH L. KRUGMAN Avon, Conn., Dec. 6, 2014

To the Editor:

I am 95, and my mind is still functioning, I have an excellent memory, and a great family and friends -- all of whom are one, two or three generations younger than I.

I am content, but not happy. I miss my husband and the many friends of my generation. What I have learned is to leave my children and grandchildren to find their own way, even if it is not my way. Love them and accept them. Get along with everyone and don't be critical. There are many ways to live, and who is to say what is right and what is wrong? Certainly not I.

BEVERLY BORTIN Walnut Creek, Calif., Dec. 5, 2014

To the Editor:

I respect the philosophical and psychological insights in David Brooks's column, but he doesn't mention two of the most important reasons I smile at 79: Social Security and Medicare!

I honor the history of all our great civilizations, but as a practical matter, I owe more to F.D.R. and L.B.J. than to Aristotle!

GARRETT A. SMITH Avon, Conn., Dec. 5, 2014

To the Editor:

At the age of 89, and recovering from two knee replacements, I am deeply disappointed in David Brooks's column.

Mr. Brooks should walk down the halls of America's nursing homes and see the number of elderly women sitting in the hall outside their rooms, staring listlessly into space most of the day, or hear their screams of ''help!'' at night, repeated again and again.

Even in upscale residences inhabited by the wealthy elderly, he could imagine what it would be like to live day after day, night after night, in the same environment, encircled by one's aging, feeble and dying peers.

The elderly in this country are essentially invisible. We have little role in society. Much of our time is spent looking after our aging bodies. We no longer drive (if we are smart!) and are locked into television's drivel for entertainment.

I know that I am luckier than most, still in my home, with a partner of many years, blessed with so many younger friends and loving children, still writing, sometimes even teaching.

But my heart bleeds for so many of my contemporaries, alone in a society that does not seem to care.

EDWARD W. WOOD Jr. Denver, Dec. 6, 2014

To the Editor:

It's hard to imagine a theory about why people in their 80s report that they are happier than those in middle age without any mention of their being retired, having few responsibilities and enjoying lots of free time (not to mention naps). But that's what David Brooks did. I can't help but wonder what the U-Curve measuring happiness would look like if the typical retirement age were increased to 85.

HOYT TAYLOR Pittsboro, N.C., Dec. 7, 2014

To the Editor:

David Brooks and Ezekiel J. Emanuel, whose article in The Atlantic about not wanting to live past 75 he cites, philosophize about health and attitudes, but their approach through averages shows insensitivity to individuals who vary in so many ways.

Dr. Emanuel suggests that people over 75 will have little or no purpose so they should expend no effort to live longer. I am over 75 and still very much have purpose. Perhaps he is trying to hold down the national cost of health care.

Mr. Brooks suggests that elders have more empathy, knowledge and maybe wisdom. Yes, some, but many do not. Surely he has seen the stubbornness, the surviving hatred and the loss of perspective that too often accompanies old age, not to mention of those in need, physically, emotionally and financially.

I am pleased to be among those smiling, but I feel lucky, not typical. I wish these able observers had shown more sensitivity in their writing about older people.

DAVID SCHENKER Evanston, Ill., Dec. 5, 2014

To the Editor:

Re ''Why Elders Smile'': As an 87-year-old, I say, Nonsense! There is too much time to mull over the might-have-beens.

LOIS TAYLOR Old Greenwich, Conn., Dec. 5, 2014



Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|A393185097