Struggling To Be Happy — Even When I’m Old

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Abstract:

My thesis seeks to reduce what may be a natural human antipathy to ageing and/or the elderly by working with one distinctive and consistently approved feature of some older people. This feature is a bold and cheerful struggle within a self-chosen project. The argument opens by distinguishing short-term gratification from lasting, fulfilling happiness, and showing the link between gratification and dependence. Three kinds of struggle (non-voluntary, part-voluntary and positive) are then outlined and exemplified. Gerontological and anthropological research suggest that attitudes to struggle are fixed early in life, and while in the past they mitigated for or against successful survival, they now influence happiness and coping in later life. I argue that the negative effects of the first two kinds of struggle - which are often misguided, grudging or ‘no-win’ struggles - are responsible for the rigidity, narcissism and resentment disliked in some older people. Self-respect, contrasted with self-righteousness, is shown to accrue only from the positive (voluntary and congenial) struggle that seems at any age to deflect or compensate for depression, disappointment, loneliness and illness.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1468-5930.00201

Publication date: January 1, 2002

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