communicating

. . . Studies with thousands of people indicate that how we feel about ourselves is generally quite positive up until about age twelve.  From about thirteen to twenty, our self-esteem levels drop to some of the lowest levels in our lives.  Thereafter, to around the age of seven, most people’s self-esteem gradually increases.  In fact, by around the age of sixty-five, many of us feel as good about ourselves as when we were nine years old–which is as good as it ever gets.  And then, self-esteem tends to drop during the last few years of life.  Other studies, based on 5,400 pairs of twins, find that as people get older, they become less outgoing, more emotionally stable, and a bit more impulsive.

The personality research is at odds with the bleak stereotypes of older people as being lonely, selfish, rigid, and bitter.  Some of the more promising research that combats these stereotypes is being conducted by Laura Carstensen and her colleagues at Stanford University.  She finds that as people age, emotion becomes a more important part of life.  With greater attention to emotional states, people learn to regulate their emotions more effectively, resulting in greater happiness and fewer negative feelings.  Although people over the age of seventy tend to have fewer friends, their social networks become stronger.

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