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Laura Carstensen 談年長者較快樂

Laura Carstensen: Older people are happier

 

Photo of three lions hunting on the Serengeti.

講者:Laura Carstensen

2011年12月演講,2012年4月在TEDxWomen上線

 

翻譯:洪曉慧

編輯:朱學恆

簡繁轉換:洪曉慧

後製:洪曉慧

字幕影片後制:謝旻均

 

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關於這場演講

在20世紀,人類的壽命以前所未有的幅度增加,但生活品質也一樣良好嗎?令人驚訝地,沒錯!在TEDxWomen中,心理學家Laura Carstensen的研究顯示,隨著年齡增長,人們變得更快樂、更有內涵,並擁有更積極的人生觀。

 

關於Laura Carstensen

Laura Carstensen是史丹佛福長壽中心主任,廣泛研究壽命延長對人類福祉的影響。

 

為什麼要聽她演講

Carstensen博士是史丹佛大學心理學和公共政策教授,也是史丹佛長壽中心的創始者,致力於探索創新的方法,解決50歲以上人口面臨的問題,及增進所有年齡層人口的福祉。她在學術界以社會情緒選擇性理論聞名,這是一種與動機有關的壽命理論。她也是《長遠而光明的未來:一生的幸福、健康和財務保障行動計劃》的作者,這本書的新版於2011年發行。

 

Laura Carstensen的英語網上資料

 

[TED科技‧娛樂‧設計]

已有中譯字幕的TED影片目錄(繁體)(簡體)。請注意繁簡目錄是不一樣的。

 

Laura Carstensen 談年長者較快樂

 

人類的壽命越來越長,社會卻越來越灰暗,你老是聽人這麼說;你在報紙上讀到這些,從電視上聽到這些,有時我會擔心,我們太常聽見這種說法,會導致我們以一種自滿,甚至無所謂的態度迎接更長的壽命。但毫無疑問地,我相信更長的壽命可以,也將會提高生活品質,對所有年齡層來說皆是。

 

現在,為了全盤瞭解這個觀點,我先縮小討論範圍。20世紀人類平均壽命增加的幅度,比之前一千年期間人類進化過程的總和還多。眨眼間,我們幾乎使平均壽命延長了一倍。所以,如果你認為自己對老化的議題不曾十分留意,請別自責,這是全新的觀點。

 

就在人類壽命增加的同時,生育率逐漸下降。這座一向代表人口年齡分佈的金字塔-底部是年輕人,向上形成代表存活到高齡的老年人-這個尖峰現在正逐漸變成長方形。

 

不知你是否是那種會對這樣的人口統計數字感到震驚的人,這是大家都應該有的感覺。因為這意味著對人類這個物種來說,這是史上第一次,出生在已發展國家中的大部分嬰兒都有機會活到高齡。

 

這是怎麼回事?好,我們的基因並不比一萬年前的祖先強壯,平均壽命的增加是文化卓越的產物-這個盛裝科學和技術的坩堝及行為的大規模變化,改善了人類的健康和福祉。藉由文化的演變,我們祖先大量消除了過早死亡的現象,因此人類現在可以順利過完一生。

 

現在,談到與老化有關的問題-疾病、貧窮、社會地位的消失,很難讓我們高枕無憂。但我們對老化越是瞭解,就越清楚地發現,認為老化是急速衰退的過程相當不正確。老化帶來一些相當顯著的改善-知識與專業的增長,情緒方面的改善。確實如此。老年人比較快樂;比中年人快樂,肯定比年輕人快樂。經過一再研究之後均得到相同的結論。

 

疾病預防控制中心(CDC)最近進行一項調查,要求受訪者簡單地告訴他們,他們前一周是否有過顯著的心理困擾。對這個問題提出肯定答案的老年人比中年人少,也比年輕人少。最近一項蓋洛普民意調查,詢問參與者前一天經歷了多大的壓力、煩惱和憤怒,而壓力、煩惱和憤怒全都隨著年齡增長而下降。

 

社會科學家稱這種現象為老化矛盾,畢竟老化並非一件小事,所以我們提出各式各樣的問題,看看是否能否決這個發現。我們質疑,這或許是因為目前老一代的人自始至終都是最優秀的一代,因此,當今年輕人或許通常不會隨著年齡增長而歷經這些改善;我們質疑,或許老年人只是試著以正面態度來看待自己這個令人沮喪的存在。(笑聲)。但我們越是試圖否認這個發現,就找到更多證據來支持它。

 

幾年前,我和同事們展開一項研究,在超過10年期間追蹤同一批人,原始取樣年齡介於18至94歲間。我們研究他們的情緒體驗,是否及如何隨年齡增長而改變。參與者每星期攜帶一次傳呼機,我們會在那天當中隨時呼叫他們,每當我們呼叫他們時,都會要求他們回答幾個問題,請他們以1至7評分:你現在多快樂?你現在多悲傷?你現在多沮喪?我們可以藉此得知他們日常生活中的情緒和感受類型。

 

藉由這種個人化的密集研究,我們發現,並非某一代比其他世代更能掌控情緒,但相對來說,隨著年齡增長,同一個人呈現越來越正向的情緒體驗。你們可以看到,在相當高齡部份,這個曲線略微下滑。這個部份確實略微下滑,但它不曾下滑到我們在成年早期所見的水平。

 

說老年人「比較快樂」確實過於單純化了,在我們的研究中,他們的情緒較為正向,但也比年輕人更可能經歷複雜的情緒-同時體驗到快樂和悲傷-你們知道,當你對朋友微笑時,眼中卻含著淚。其他研究顯示,老年人似乎更能自在地與悲傷共處,他們比年輕人更能接受悲傷,我們認為這或許有助於解釋,為什麼老年人比年輕人更能處理激烈的情緒衝突與情感掙扎。老年人能以慈悲,而不是絕望的態度審視不公正。

 

他們對所有事物一視同仁。老年人將他們的認知資源,例如注意力和記憶力指向正面而非負面的訊息。如果我們讓老年人、中年人和年輕人看一些圖片,如你們在螢幕上所見,稍後要求他們回想能記起的所有圖片,老年人,而非年輕人,記得更多的正面形象,而非負面形象。我們要求老年人和年輕人在實驗研究中觀察人類臉孔,有些皺眉,有些面帶微笑;老年人的目光集中在笑臉上,避開皺眉、憤怒的臉孔,在日常生活中,這意味著較多的喜悅和滿足。

 

但身為社會科學家,我們會繼續質疑其他可能原因。我們想,也許老年人展現較為正向的情緒是因為他們的認知障礙。(笑聲)。我們想,這是否是因為處理正面情緒比負面情緒容易,所以人們會切換到正面情緒?也許我們大腦的神經中樞已退化到無法再處理負面情緒了,但事實並非如此。神智最敏銳的年長者正是最能表現正向情緒的人。在遇上真正重要的情況時,老年人確實能處理負面訊息,正如處理正面訊息一樣。

 

那麼,為何會有這種情形?好,在研究中,我們發現,這些變化基本上是基於人類感測時間的獨特能力-不僅是時間和日期,還有壽命。如果確實存在老化矛盾,它意識到我們無法長生不死,於是使我們對生命的觀點轉變成正向。當生命所剩的時間長而令人感受模糊時,就像年少時通常會有的感覺,人們總是不斷準備著,試著盡可能吸收所有能獲得的資訊,進行冒險與探索。我們或許會花時間跟不喜歡的人在一起,因為這令人感到莫名的有趣,你們知道,這或許能讓我們學習到意想不到的事物。(笑聲)。我們進行盲目約會。(笑聲)。你們知道,畢竟,如果不成功,總還有別的機會。超過50歲的人不會再進行盲目約會。

 

(笑聲)

 

隨著年齡增長,我們所剩的時間越變越短,我們的目標有所改變,當我們意識到我們不再擁有全世界的時間時,就會看清生命中的優先事項。我們減少對瑣事的注意,細細品味人生;我們更懂得珍惜,更容易妥協,將生命投資在較重要的情感部分;生命變得更美好,所以我們越來越快樂。但觀察世事的角度也同樣發生改變,導致我們對不公正的容忍度比以往任何時候都低。

 

到了2015年,美國60歲以上的人口會比15歲以下的人口更多。老年人口多於年輕人口會讓社會發生什麼改變?決定這個結果的不是人口數字,而是文化。如果我們在科學和技術方面投資,找出老年人面臨之真正問題的解決方案,並利用老年人的實質力量,那麼,壽命的延長將可大幅增進所有年齡層的生活品質。一個擁有數百萬才華洋溢、情緒穩定之公民的社會,他們比之前任何一代更健康、教育程度更高,具備處理生活中實際問題的知識,及解決重大問題的動力,能創造出比我們想像中更好的社會。

 

我父親現年92歲,他喜歡這麼說,「我們別再只討論如何拯救老人家,不妨開始討論如何讓他們來拯救我們大家。」

 

謝謝。

 

(掌聲)

 

以下為系統擷取之英文原文

About this Talk

In the 20th century we added an unprecedented number of years to our lifespans, but is the quality of life as good? Surprisingly, yes! At TEDxWomen psychologist Laura Carstensen shows research that demonstrates that as people get older they become happier, more content, and have a more positive outlook on the world.

About the Speaker

Laura Carstensen is the director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, and has extensively studied the effects on wellbeing of extended lifetimes. Full bio »

Transcript

People are living longer and societies are getting grayer. You hear about it all the time.You read about it in your newspapers. You hear about it on your television sets.Sometimes I'm concerned that we hear about it so much that we've come to accept longer lives with a kind of a complacency, even ease. But make no mistake, longer lives can and, I believe, will improve quality of life at all ages.

Now to put this in perspective, let me just zoom out for a minute. More years were addedto average life expectancy in the 20th century than all years added across all prior millennia of human evolution combined. In the blink of an eye, we nearly doubled the length of time that we're living. So if you ever feel like you don't have this aging thing quite pegged, don't kick yourself. It's brand new.

And because fertility rates fell across that very same period that life expectancy was going up, that pyramid that has always represented the distribution of age in the population, with many young ones at the bottom winnowed to a tiny peak of older people who make it and survive to old age is being reshaped into a rectangle.

And now, if you're the kind of person who can get chills from population statistics, these are the ones that should do it. Because what that means is that for the first time in the history of the species, the majority of babies born in the Developed World are having the opportunity to grow old.

How did this happen? Well we're no genetically hardier than our ancestors were 10,000 years ago. This increase in life expectancy is the remarkable product of culture -- the crucible that holds science and technology and wide-scale changes in behavior that improve health and well-being. Through cultural changes, our ancestors largely eliminated early death so that people can now live out their full lives.

Now there are problems associated with aging -- diseases, poverty, loss of social status.It's hardly time to rest on our laurels. But the more we learn about aging, the clearer it becomes that a sweeping downward course is grossly inaccurate. Aging brings some rather remarkable improvements -- increased knowledge, expertise -- and emotional aspects of life improve. That's right, older people are happy. They're happier than middle-aged people, and younger people certainly. Study after study is coming to the same conclusion.

The CDC recently conducted a survey where they asked respondents simply to tell themwhether they experienced significant psychological distress in the previous week. And fewer older people answered affirmatively to that question than middle-aged people, and younger people as well. And a recent Gallup poll asked participants how much stress and worry and anger they had experienced the previous day. And stress, worry, anger all decrease with age.

Now social scientists call this the paradox of aging. After all, aging is not a piece of cake.So we've asked all sorts of questions to see if we could undo this finding. We've asked whether it may be that the current generations of older people are and always have beenthe greatest generations. That is that younger people today may not typically experience these improvements as they grow older. We've asked, well maybe older people are just trying to put a positive spin on an otherwise depressing existence. (Laughter) But the more we've tried to disavow this finding, the more evidence we find to support it.

Years ago, my colleagues and I embarked on a study where we followed the same group of people over a 10-year period. Originally the sample was aged 18 to 94. And we studied whether and how their emotional experiences changed as they grew older. Our participants would carry electronic pagers for a week at a time, and we'd page them throughout the day and evenings at random times. And every time we paged them we'd ask them to answer several questions -- On a one to seven scale, how happy are you right now? How sad are you right now? How frustrated are you right now? -- so that we could get a sense of the kinds of emotions and feelings they were having in their day-to-day lives.

And using this intense study of individuals, we find that it's not one particular generationthat's doing better than the others, but the same individuals over time come to report relatively greater positive experience. Now you see this slight downturn at very advanced ages. And there is a slight downturn. But at no point does it return to the levels we see in early adulthood.

Now it's really too simplistic to say that older people are "happy." In our study, they are more positive, but they're also more likely than younger people to experience mixed emotions -- sadness at the same time you experience happiness; you know, that tear in the eye when you're smiling at a friend. And other research has shown that older people seem to engage with sadness more comfortably. They're more accepting of sadness than younger people are. And we suspect that this may help to explain why older people are better than younger people at solving hotly-charged emotional conflicts and debates.Older people can view injustice with compassion, but not despair.

And all things being equal, older people direct their cognitive resources, like attention and memory, to positive information more than negative. If we show older, middle-aged, younger people images, like the ones you see on the screen, and we later ask them to recall all the images that they can, older people, but not younger people, remember more positive images than negative images. We've asked older and younger people to view faces in laboratory studies, some frowning, some smiling. Older people look toward the smiling faces and away from the frowning, angry faces. In day-to-day life, this translates into greater enjoyment and satisfaction.

But as social scientists, we continue to ask about possible alternatives. We've said, well maybe older people report more positive emotions because they're cognitively impaired.(Laughter) We've said, could it be that positive emotions are simply easier to process than negative emotions, and so you switch to the positive emotions? Maybe our neural centers in our brain are degraded such that we're unable to process negative emotions anymore. But that's not the case. The most mentally sharp older adults are the ones who show this positivity effect the most. And under conditions where it really matters, older people do process the negative information just as well as the positive information.

So how can this be? Well in our research, we've found that these changes are grounded fundamentally in the uniquely human ability to monitor time -- not just clock time and calendar time, but lifetime. And if there's a paradox of aging, it's that recognizing that we won't live forever changes our perspective on life in positive ways. When time horizons are long and nebulous, as they typically are in youth, people are constantly preparing, trying to soak up all the information they possibly can, taking risks, exploring. We might spend time with people we don't even like because it's somehow interesting. We might learn something unexpected. (Laughter) We go on blind dates. (Laughter) You know, after all, if it doesn't work out, there's always tomorrow. People over 50 don't go on blind dates.

(Laughter)

As we age, our time horizons grow shorter and our goals change. When we recognize that we don't have all the time in the world, we see our priorities most clearly. We take less notice of trivial matters. We savor life. We're more appreciative, more open to reconciliation. We invest in more emotionally important parts of life, and life gets better, so we're happier day-to-day. But that same shift in perspective leads us to have less tolerance than ever for injustice.

By 2015, there will be more people in the United States over the age of 60 than under 15.What will happen to societies that are top-heavy with older people? The numbers won't determine the outcome. Culture will. If we invest in science and technology and find solutions for the real problems that older people face and we capitalize on the very real strengths of older people, then added years of life can dramatically improve quality of lifeat all ages. Societies with millions of talented, emotionally stable citizens who are healthier and better educated than any generations before them, armed with knowledgeabout the practical matters of life and motivated to solve the big issues can be better societies than we have ever known.

My father, who is 92, likes to say, "Let's stop talking only about how to save the old folksand start talking about how to get them to save us all."

Thank you.


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