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Hacking Happiness: Understanding What Drives Well-Being in Women Across The Lifespan


Life used to be very linear. We grew up, got an education, worked, then we retired. Demographics, though, are shifting.

We are living longer—with women living, on average, five years longer than men. And with these changes, how we learn, earn, and live across our lifespans are also shifting. Understanding these dynamics that come with longer lives, especially for women, is critical. In 2010, almost 83% of U.S. centenarians were female.

The shift in longer lifespans of women starts to change the conversation from how we are living to how we want to live. According to AARP founder Ethel Percy Andrus, “As long as we can feel independent, purposeful, useful, and needed, then we’re happy.”


AARP Research decided to explore this topic through a study.

2018 AARP Hacking Longevity Study

“Well-being,” defined as feeling both healthy and fulfilled, is the key to hacking happiness across the lifespan. Women’s well-being is most impacted by being motivated by self and others. Those that rate high on well-being are self-reliant, take enjoyment in life, have cultural pride and are committed to helping others. They also feel in control of their time and stress.

Those insights may sound familiar; they all echo the words of Ethel Percy Andrus, stated many years ago.

For women, with age comes comfort and contentment. Women feel more “blessed” as they get older. They take time throughout the lifespan to continually focus on relationships (with children and partners, then grandchildren and friends), independence (health and financial), faith (spirituality and religion), and fun and leisure (travel and hobbies). More so than men, spending time with friends and family, grandchildren and great-grandchildren especially, are key parts of life that women look forward to as they grow older. With 70 percent of 8-year-olds projected to have a living great-grandparent by 2030, the impact of these women on younger generations will continue to increase.

All that said, women, not surprisingly, do harbor certain concerns about growing older, primarily around becoming a burden on their family or losing their independence. Relatedly, they also have concerns about dementia and losing their ability to think clearly, which dovetails with their longer lifespans.

Nevertheless, even with those concerns, the outlook of women for their future selves is overwhelmingly positive. Women are changing the conversation on aging, with most saying the best years are still to come. As women continue on their life journey, they:

  • are optimistic about their future selves and feel blessed,
  • value freedom and fun,
  • are concerned about their independence, and
  • are focused on family, friends, and faith.

“We are growing old, all of us. It’s just up to you as to what you will make of this part of your life.”
-Ethel Percy Andrus

About Hacking Longevity

Hacking Longevity is a study conducted by AARP in partnership with The Business of Aging and Collaborata, with additional support from P&G Ventures, Wells Fargo Advisors, and GreatCall. Data were collected online using the Research Now consumer panel. A total of 2,917 respondents completed the survey across three generational categories:

  • Gen Xers: born between 1965 and 1984 (n=949)
  • Boomers: born between 1946 and 1964 (n=1048)
  • Seniors: born in 1945 or earlier (n-920)

Fielding was completed between February 2 and February 18, 2018. The data were weighted to the U.S. population by age, gender, race/ethnicity, marital status, education, employment status, and region using U.S. Census figures.

Stria sponsor Life Reinvented made “The Truth About Older Women” special editorial series possible.

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J. Alison Bryant, Ph.D. and Patty David for AARP

J. Alison Bryant, Ph.D. leads the Research Center for AARP, integrating insights and ideas that help the organization, consumers, and external stakeholders understand, engage with, and innovate for the 50+ consumer and their families. She is a renowned expert on the impact of media, technology, and play on consumers and has edited three books and over 30 research articles and chapters. Patty David directs the discovery and development of consumer insights for the personal fulfillment offerings at AARP. She has over 25 years of experience in the research field, and consumer insights is her passion. This story is sponsored content and the authors are not part of the Stria News editorial team.

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