How Happiness Changes with Age

Updated on October 16, 2021

By Ilchi Lee

Our priorities tend to shift as we become older. We’re no longer as concerned with looking good, driving a fancy car, or having the latest and greatest gadgets on the market. Our older age gives us perspective, and we begin to measure our happiness in other ways. It’s one of the greatest gifts about getting older.

If you’ve been overly attached to your appearance or societal status, both of which might wane with aging, don’t worry. You’ll gain far more than you lose. Here are some of the new sources of happiness that will head your way as you gain years.

You Gain Freedom

During the first half of your life, you had obligations that were often out of your control. You might have lived the first quarter of your life completing the schooling that society and your family felt you should have. The next quarter of your life may have been spent pleasing your boss and trying to earn a living.

But with your later decades, obligations don’t have as strong of a hold on you. You might be looking at retirement and realize you are in charge of yourself now. For many of us, our first taste of true freedom comes in our later years, and it can be intoxicating. That’s why I say in my book, I’ve Decided to Live 120 Years, that people should reflect upon the first half of their life and start to design their second half. Anything is possible.

You Realize Money Isn’t Everything 

We all need money to survive, and it’s better to have enough to be comfortable than to have none at all. But once you have all your necessities covered, money begins to lose its importance as you age. You’ll find you spend less time chasing it than you did in your youth.

If you ask yourself when you were most joyful in your life, chances are it isn’t a memory that’s tied to a possession you owned.

Relationships Become Everything

We work to provide for the people we love. But the trade-off there is that we lose out on time with those people because we are working so hard. When you get older, those relationships and their importance come sharply into focus. We start to realize that people, not things, are what will give us true happiness.

Taking time to reflect upon your relationships and how you would like to see them grow can give you a road map for your upcoming decades.

Helping Others Becomes More Important

Do you remember when you were a child, and you’d do random acts of kindness without even thinking about it? You’d pick flowers for your neighbor or try to help your mother clean even if you were barely old enough to hold a broom. You did it because it feels good to help people. We sometimes forget that in our busy adult lives.

But as you age, you start to think less about helping yourself and more about helping others. You have the time and wisdom to want to make the world a better place for future generations.

Making someone else smile or improving their life can help us be happier as well. If we’re suffering from the aches and pains of getting older, there’s no better way to help us forget them than by bringing joy to someone else. 

Ilchi Lee is a visionary, educator, and a New York Times bestselling author. He has penned more than 40 books including I’ve Decided to Live 120 Years. He founded the mind-body practices of Body & Brain Yoga and Brain Education and established the Earth Citizen Movement. For more information, visit


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