New Zealand survey finds those in 80s and 90s as content as their age counterparts in Britain

People become happier as they settle fully into old age, a survey suggests.

The study by the Oddfellows organisation in Britain found the proportion who were "very happy" was more than twice as high in the over-70s, compared with people in their 50s.

In New Zealand, a large survey of people in their 80s or 90s found that around 90 per cent reported being satisfied or very satisfied with their life. This was despite most participants having, on average, three health conditions, said one of the Auckland University researchers, Dr Ruth Teh.

"Various aspects are related to life satisfaction, for example having a meaningful role, good emotional support from family and friends, one's perception on the importance of faith to their wellbeing, social network/support, and health status are all interlinked."

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The British survey indicates the keys to happiness are having good friends, good health and the freedom to go shopping whenever you want.

Aucklander Betty Somerville attributes her happiness with life to helping others, having friends and having a good sense of humour.

"Life is what you make of it," said the 91-year-old, who lives in her own home and has reasonable health.

She said many older people "sit around all day and [think] 'woe is me' instead of doing something to help others, which is a great benefit for lonely, elderly people.

"I still do Meals on Wheels - for people ever so much younger than myself," she said.

The British survey of nearly 1000 people aged over 50 found 22 per per cent of those in their 50s didn't feel they had a meaningful role in their community, in contrast to just 9 per cent of participants in their 70s who felt this way.

Forty-five per cent of respondents in their 50s said spending time with friends was what they were most looking forward to about being retired.

Yet nearly 66 per cent of those in their 70s said they considered it the most enjoyable element.

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Having less stress was the aspect of retirement most looked forward to and most enjoyed, selected by more than 60 per cent of those questioned overall.

Shirley Smith, 89, of Tauranga, said she remained happy despite a bout of pain in her spine which had been severe but was now easing.

Christianity is the main source of her happiness, and she enjoys attending gatherings with friends at her church.

Oddfellows chief executive Jane Nelson said, "If you approach retirement in the right way then you can become happier as you get older."

But for some, the extra spare time of retirement became loneliness, lack of purpose and a longing for social interaction.

- Daily Mail

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