The population of older people is at an all-time high. We might picture older folk as depressed, but Carstensen says they are happier than we realize. Do you think you will be happier as you grow older?

Why you should listen:

In the 20th century we added an unprecedented number of years to our lifespans, but is the quality of life as good? Surprisingly, yes! At TEDxWomen psychologist Laura Carstensen shows research that demonstrates that as people get older they become happier, more content, and have a more positive outlook on the world.

Who is she:

Dr. Carstensen is Professor of Psychology and Public Policy at Stanford University, where she is the founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, which explores innovative ways to solve the problems of people over 50 and improve the well-being of people of all ages. She is best known in academia for socioemotional selectivity theory, a life-span theory of motivation. She is also the author of A Long Bright Future: An Action Plan for a Lifetime of Happiness, Health, and Financial Security.


  1. What geometrical figures did Carstensen use to describe the shift in population by age?
  1. What do you think are the cultural changes that effect longevity?
  1. Describe the differences in the way younger and older people engage with sadness.
  1. Why do you think stress, worry and anger decrease with age? Do you see that in your own life?
  1. Why do older people direct their attention and memory to positive events?
  1. Realizing we won’t live forever changes our perspective on life in a positive way. Discuss this research finding.

Older people are happier with Laura Carstensen



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