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Are baby boomers happy?

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Most baby boomers are now at the stage in their lives where they should be happy. They are approaching retirement, their kids are grown, they are grandparents and many are easing into the next phase of their lives. Traditionally, as we grow older life becomes less stressful and we are happier than we were in our younger years. But, recent polls show baby boomers are not a happy group.

The baby boomer generation has shaped our society since the 1950s. Baby boomers crafted their own rules and did things their way as they leaped from one decade to the next. Recognized as trendsetters, baby boomers dominated our country’s popular culture, shaped society’s mores and were filled with hope and inspiration for the future.

But the optimism many boomers had for the future of this country in their youth has vanished. It has been replaced by disillusionment. A recent Pew Research poll found baby boomers are more downbeat than other age group about the trajectory of their own lives and about the direction of the nation as a whole. A surprising 80 percent of baby boomers 'are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country today.'

An AARP poll has disclosed boomers are at the bottom of the 'happiness curve.' Many boomers face worries about financial security and retirement, some face difficulties raising teenagers and looming college tuitions, some have adult children moving back home with high student loan debt and many are caring for aging parents. All of this fosters 'middle age melancholy.' So many boomers are finding middle age to be demanding and stressful.

For one thing, the Great Recession took its toll. With respect to personal finances, economic security and retirement expectations, baby boomers feel damaged by the Recession. The Pew survey indicates 21 percent of boomers 'say their own standard of living is lower than their parents’ at the age they are now.'

Plus, as many boomers hit their 60s they are encountering health problems. As a generation, baby boomers are committed to staying young and healthy through physical exercise, mental fitness activities, a nutritious diet and an active lifestyle. But many boomers are confronting critical health concerns including chronic diseases which can be demoralizing.

So, given all the stressful situations boomers confront today, how can they be happy? Experts say boomers should focus more on the positive.

AARP and the National Opinion Research Center offer the following tips on being happy:

  • enjoy your 60s because the early years of retirement, when you have lots of free time and the good health to enjoy it, tend to be your happiest years;
  • stay as healthy as possible because happy people eat better, get more exercise, suffer less stress and end up living healthier, longer lives;
  • have good relationships with both family and friends because personal relationships bring more intense and longer lasting feelings of happiness;
  • savor your marriage because the happiest people find great fulfillment in sharing everyday moments with their close intimate partner; and
  • own a pet because pets provide companionship, relieve stress, help keep you active and make you happy.

Baby boomers who accept where they are in life, count their blessings and are grateful for what they have are the happiest.

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