Glory days: Most seniors agree that their 20s or 30s were the happiest years of their lives

NEW YORK — If time travel were possible, a third of seniors would go back in time to relive a particular part of their lives, according to new research. A survey of 2,000 Americans over 65 finds that 36 percent wish they had the knowledge that they have today about different areas of life – like love, finances, or health. This information may have been so valuable that the same percentage claim they would have made different decisions when they were younger.

If they could relive any decade of their life, seniors would mostly opt for their 30s (30%) or 20s (25%), remembering these years as the happiest of their lives.

Conducted by OnePoll for BrightStar Care, the survey also found that if they had the chance to redo one major decision, people would have saved more money (20%) or invested earlier (14%), which may be why many wish they received better advice about money (39%) and education (38%) when they were younger.

However, half of seniors admit they’ve received advice from someone they didn’t think much of at the time, but followed later on. Similarly, 49 percent ignored some advice they were given. Still, 36 percent say, regardless of the past, they’re happy with their life as it is and the same percentage believe the errors they made in the past benefitted them by teaching valuable life lessons in the long run.

“It’s healthy to reminisce about your youth and take a deep look at all you have accomplished and learned through the years,” says Shelly Sun, founder and CEO of BrightStar Care, Shelly Sun, in a statement. “With age comes wisdom, and reflecting on past experiences can serve not only as cherished memories but as grounds to impart knowledge to younger generations.”

What advice would seniors give their younger selves?

Another 42 percent would miss their current life if things were different than they are now. When asked what advice they would give to their own selves in their 20s, respondents would “accept challenges,” tell themselves to “follow your intuition,” and “don’t be afraid to seize life.”

With the knowledge they have now, seniors would feel confident advising the younger generations about education (41%), money (37%), and health (36%). They’d also share wise words like “always be prepared,” “be humble at all times,” and “eliminate negative thoughts.”

Other respondents would tell people in their 20s that it’s important to “be patient and open to hearing and listening at the same time,” not “let others decide your choice for you,” and “enjoy every step in life.”

Aging is a privilege that should be celebrated at every stage of one’s life,” Sun continues. “In your twenties, it’s hard to imagine what your life will be when you’re 65+, however, if you sit back and listen to the powerful advice seniors have to offer, you’ll find worthwhile insights that can help prepare you for your future.”

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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  1. What a waste of research dollars. We already have longitudinal studies and cohort studies with actual real-time happiness ratings by subjects over the course of their lives instead of relying on retrospective data that could have been polluted by nostalgia and cultural bias.

  2. Actually; I prefer my life, at 88 to be the best year of my life. I have been transitioning from 70 into my 80s and looking forward to my next 20 years. Having security and health-my doctor just examined me and said that my body is in better condition than it was five years ago. He actually stood back and looked at me in amazement. I am taking better care of my body through exercise, work, rest and diet. I can choose my daily activities and pursuits as they present themselves. My wife, son and daughter are with me and contribute to the wholesome effect of a nuclear and extended family. Life is what you make it. I live under the direction and control of God, with Jesus Christ as my center and foundation. God makes life wonderful.

  3. THERAPY: Blame Own Children. Complain about millennials while skillset outdated. Shit on walls on the way out.

  4. Personally I preferred the 60s, 70s & 80s. Life was more fun, no cell phones, no Wi-Fi, no Social Media. My wife and I kept our two sons busy with Church, Camping, Hunting, Fishing , Riding ATVs and Vacations. We took weekends for activities and NO ONE CALLING or TEXTING, just relaxing and fun. My oldest Son always says, “ I had the best childhood ever “.
    Both boys have good families , no divorces, married 24 years and 26 years. Great Children, no drugs or smoking. Like their beer and wine.
    For me these were great times.

    1. I agree, at my mid 80’s, I feel my late teens and thru my 20’s and 30’s were the greatest. those were the 50’s and 60’s – still lots of focus on new opportunities in advancing our own personal abilities and direction of interest and advancment. Freedom later being sucked into the technology traps of cellphones and their false and thin payback chances. social networks operate to mostly create an artificial sence of accomplishment gained purely to make a user unaware and indifferent to REAL constructive developments at their fingertips, if they would just stop just playihg kid games.

  5. If 36% are happy with their current lives that means 64% are not. That is a significant majority unhappy with their lives. The title of this article could easily have been AMERICANS UNHAPPY AS SENIOR CITIZENS.

  6. Knowing what I know now at 78, I realize that decisions I made in my 20’s and 30’s were best possible considering circumstances, and they give me immense peace of mind. I graduated in 1966 from West Point, chose infantry branch, and served two very exciting, rewarding tours in Vietnam. My first tour, at 23, ended after I was seriously wounded, and I got back there 13 months later to find out whether I had lost my nerve; I had not at all, and I had a wealth of experience which helped considerably then and later in my Army career. Three of my four sons are Special Forces officers; one is a pilot – so, evidently they saw that such careers could be very rewarding. Now, my hobby is stopping for and assisting broken-down motorists (well over 2,000 times), and I have written a book, “Roadside Survival,” used by individuals, driver education schools and law enforcement agencies. I teach the subject at my local community college. Life is good!

  7. Consider the age group saying this. The country was doing much better in their 20s and 30s. This country hasn’t had a future since W’s second term. It’s chewed meat. The lives of today’s young are tragic basket cases compared to previous generations. They never got to experience “that 80’s money” that olds were able to roll into index funds by the early 90’s and multiply it three fold or more just by sitting there while their property values went to the moon. The young were locked out of the ponzi. And olds sit in disbelief that “these millennials are such little communists.” Why wouldn’t they be? They’re refuse of a hollowed out country with no real economy left. Adding insult to injury the olds just tell them to “bootstrap it.” Sure thing pops.

    1. Actually, there has never been a time in world history when there has been more opportunity available to young people than right now. But to participate in the wonders to come, one must shed negative attitudes and engage one’s brain.

  8. Not so much. I asked my father when he was 85 what was the happiest time of his life. He said “now.” The 20’s and 30’s are filled with much too much self will and self-seeking to fit the bill.
    Also, judging this question by physical beauty or freedom from responsibility is a shallow evaluation. I think the survey that said 64 was the happiest age is more accurate.

  9. I’ve never been happier than I am now in my late 60s. My marriage gets richer and deeper every day, my kids bring me joy, my grandchild brings me more joy. My life work balance is good and much better than it was when I was younger. I’m not nearly as wealthy as I thought I would be when my wife and I were making lots of money in our 30s and 40s, but we have more than enough for the things we care about such as travel and helping family. Things I used to care about, such as having a large and imposing home stuffed with great furnishings, mean next to nothing to me now and I don’t really know why. I’m no ascetic; they just aren’t worth the bother. In my life, most of my unhappiness was self created despite being blessed and privileged from the day I was born, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten better about accepting and being grateful for all that has been given me.

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