Spirituality is key to happiness, older folks say

Counting your blessings can bring more joy than

Counting your blessings can bring more joy than counting your money, according to a new survey. (Credit: ISTOCK)

Travel deals

Counting your blessings can bring more joy than counting your money, according to a new survey.

Results from the 2014 United States of Aging survey shows adults 60 and older are generally satisfied with their lives and optimistic about the future. The survey, sponsored by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, the National Council on Aging, United Healthcare and USA Today, has been taken annually since 2012.

Compared to last year's survey, older adults are more confident about their financial situation, but when asked the key to keeping a positive outlook on life, money was a distant 10th on the list.

"The No. 1 answer was spirituality," says Rhonda Randall, a gerontologist and chief medical officer for United Healthcare Retiree Solutions. In fact, 25 percent of adults 60 and older said "faith or spirituality" was the key to happiness, followed by "a loving family" (15 percent) and "a positive attitude" (14 percent). Only 5 percent said "being financially secure" was the most important factor.

Perhaps the best news in the survey is older adults are getting serious about improving their health and eating habits. About 37 percent said they exercise at least 30 minutes every day, compared to 26 percent in the 2013 survey.

But while actually exercising and eating well are important for physical health, simply making plans to ramp up activity and nutrition appears to have benefits for emotional health. Those seniors who said they set health goals were more than twice as likely to think their quality of life will improve and three times as likely to believe their health will get better.

"Just the act of setting a goal for your health has a positive effect," Randall says. "There's a degree of optimism that comes with setting the goal and believing that you can achieve the goal you set."

This year's survey also showed seniors feeling less pessimistic. For example, 22 percent said the current year was the worst in their lives or worse than normal.

A year ago, 24 percent said 2013 was worst ever/worse than normal. And in the 2012 survey, as seniors were still recovering from the Great Recession, 34 percent said that year was the worst ever/worse than normal.

As for their biggest worry, the No. 1 choice was "not being able to take care of myself" (16 percent), followed by "losing my memory" (14 percent) and "being a burden" (9 percent).

For the complete survey, go to nwsdy.li/agingsurvey

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Newsday on social media

@Newsday

advertisement | advertise on newsday