Sterling Care - Providing home care, nanny placement and domestic staffing services

September – National Preparedness Month

Posted on: September 17th, 2014 by Steven Katz

[Greenwich] – September is National Preparedness Month.  Because natural disasters likeHurricane Kit hurricanes can occur at any time, the Greenwich Department of Health is reminding all residents to be prepared.  “With today’s changing weather patterns, it is as important to be prepared for emergencies of all kinds.   Certainly Hurricane Sandy taught us this valuable lesson.  While government does its part in preparing for disasters, individual action and responsibility is needed.  By making preparations in advance, you will have what you need and will feel more confident.  Part of being prepared is deciding on whether you should ride out the storm.  In some cases, it would be safer to relocate,” stated Caroline Calderone Baisley, Director of Health.

The Department of Health advises residents to make an Emergency Supply Kit and to keep emergency contact phone numbers listed below handy.  Also residents are encouraged to visit websites including the Town’s website, The American Red Cross, and the federal government for pointers on personal readiness and listen to local news radio stations (WGCH 1490 AM or WLNK 1350 AM) for up to date information.  During an emergency the Town may opt to use its emergency notification system to send a recorded message to each resident that has a published number.  All residents are encouraged to register a contact number (non-published number, cell phone, etc.) through the Town’s website located under the First Selectman’s Emergency Preparedness page.

  • TO REPORT ONLY EMERGENCIES – For all Police, Fire and EMS emergencies, dial 911.
  • GREENWICH EMERGENCY INFORMATION:                                             (866) 245-4260
    (This number is in service ONLY during major emergencies)

Emergency Helplines – Utilities:

Aquarion Water Company                                                                                                         1-800-732-9678

Northeast Utilities                                                                                                                      1-800-286-2000

CT Natural Gas Company                                                                                                            (203) 869-6913


Local Non-Emergency Phone Numbers:

Town of Greenwich –                                                                          (203) 622-7700

Greenwich Department of Health, Division of Environmental Health         (203)-987-1001/622-7838

Greenwich Fire Department non-emergency                                                                        (203)-622-3950

Greenwich Police Department non-emergency                                                                    (203)-622-8000

Non-Emergency Medical Transportation Service

– American Medical Response (AMR)                                                    1-800-379-7700/(203)-332-4080

Department of Parks and Recreation Tree Division                                                              (203)-622-7814

Greenwich Chapter, American Red Cross                                                                              (203)-869-8444

Greenwich Department of Social Services                                                                              (203) 622-3800

Connecticut Poison Control                                                                                                       1-800-222-1222


The following information has been assembled for the general public:

Emergency Supplies

  • Flashlights and battery-powered radios
  • First Aid Items:  bandages, blankets, First Aid handbook and all special medicines
  • A supply of non-perishable goods that require no cooking or refrigeration and a can opener
  • A minimum of one-gallon of water per person a day
  • Materials such as wire, rope, chlorine disinfectant, fire extinguishers, extra blankets, lumber and sandbags

Storm Conditions

Power Outages:

Storm conditions can bring high winds, torrential rain, flooding and power outages when storm warnings are in effect, stay tuned to local radio stations WGCH 1490 AM and WLNK 1350AM or Cablevision Channel 12 for official bulletins.  Keep a battery-powered radio handy, stay indoors, travel only if necessary.  Motor vehicles should be kept off the street so emergency response crews can access the area to clear trees, service wires and respond to medical emergencies.

Power outages can pose health hazards.  Community shelters (Eastern Middle School and Western Bendheim Civic Center) will be opened if available and needed.

 During power outages:

  • Unplug your appliances
  • Generators should be used with caution. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and NEVER operate a generator indoors. Also, do not operate a generator inside the garage with or without the door being opened.  DO NOT supply generator power to your home’s main line as you may injure a utility employee.  Be aware of pooled water at all times.
  • Conserve fuel and water.  A few large containers can be filled with warm water for an emergency supply.
  • Observe health and safety precautions when issued especially during times of fallen trees and power lines.
  • Do not use charcoal grills indoors (includes garage) or gas stoves as a source of heat.  Either one can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • When using candles, do so with extreme caution.
  • Fireplaces may be used as long as they are properly vented
  • Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed.  When anticipating a power failure, set refrigerator and freezer temperatures to a colder setting to build up a cooling reserve.  With the door closed, fully stacked freezers will keep for two days, while half full freezers will keep food for one day.  Dry ice can be used safely in freezers; however, gloves must be worn in handling and proceed as recommended.
  • All thawed food may be cooked if maintained below 45o, otherwise it should be discarded.  It is not recommended to refreeze any food once it has thawed. Any questions about food spoilage can be directed to the Division of Environmental Services at (203)-987-1001 or (203) 622-7838.
  • Refrigerated food, especially perishable items such as eggs, milk, fish, meat and poultry, should be maintained at 45o, or below.  Foods should be cooked or discarded after three hours of not being maintained at proper temperatures.  All stuffed meats and poultry should be discarded.  Any doubt concerning food items, discard or contact the Division of Environmental Health at the number(s) above, to discuss certain situations.


 During a storm, flood waters may enter your home or flood your property.

  • If your home or workplace is flooding, turn off the furnace and the gas valve at the appliance. Do not handle energized electrical equipment in wet areas. If meter goes under water, shut off the gas valves and all appliances.  Be sure to have the electrical system thoroughly checked and repaired before use.  Additional information can be obtained by calling Connecticut Natural Gas at 203‑869‑6900.
  • Never try to cross a flooded area on foot. The water may be deep, unsanitary, fast running and power lines could be down and unseen.
  • If you are in a car, avoid driving through floodwaters. Fast water could sweep your car away. However, if you are caught in fast rising waters and your vehicle stalls, leave the car.
  • Private wells that have been flooded must be disinfected and sampled before use. It is important to wait until flood waters have receded to the point where waste disposal and septic systems can operate normally. A well drilling company can arrange this service – drink bottled water in the meantime. Well disinfection procedures are available by contacting the Department of Health’s Division of Environmental Services at (203)-987-1001 or (203) 622-7838.
  • Wait until flood waters are below basement level before trying to drain or pump the basement.
  • Never allow children to play in flood waters. Flood waters are considered contaminated. Clean all toys and equipment with a disinfectant or discard them.
  • All clothing, curtains, bedding, etc. should be washed with hot, soapy water, than bleached if possible. Furniture and floors may be rinsed with clean water after washing with soap and water; disinfect if possible. (See other printed material entitled- Cleaning and Repairing Flooded Basements, Recommendations for Equipment, Furniture and Appliance Cleaning.
  • Do not handle electrical equipment in wet areas
  • Wear protective clothing while cleaning up debris
  • All food items exposed to flood waters should be discarded.  Cans and conventional jars free of rust or dents must be washed and sanitized before they are opened.  If you are in doubt, throw it out. Call (203)-987-1001 or (203) 622-7838.with further questions.
  • Cooperate with local officials at all times during an emergency.

Fallen Trees:

  • Fallen trees can cause a major problem. Trees on private property will be the responsibility of the homeowner.  When a Town tree falls onto private property the Town will be responsible for the removal of all wood and brush. All calls will be handled on a first come bases unless it is an emergency situation. Patience is requested since all roads and critical municipality infrastructures must be cleaned and cleared first for safety.
  • When any tree falls on a power line and causes it to come down or block a Town road or right-of way, the situation should be reported immediately.

For a copy of the Department of Health’s brochure, Hurricanes – Be Prepared, go on the Town’s website at and look under the Department of Health.  Brochures are also available at Town Hall.

Five Back to School Tips For Moms For Their Children

Posted on: September 12th, 2014 by Steven Katz

Summer is almost over and it’s time for your children again to go back to school to learn newMother gets child ready for first day of school lessons, interact with old teachers and classmates, as well as meet new ones, and get involved in extracurricular activities. In order for you to be ready and get adjusted for the forthcoming back to school fad, here are some tips that may help you and your child all set for the first month of classes:

1)      Be practical in buying school supplies. You don’t need expensive school supplies for your child. Buy only what your kids really need. But, you should also be careful in buying. Take note of its quality and hazard contents too, make sure those are safe for your children. You might also wait until the first day of school when the supplies list is given to your children to be more efficient. Beuerman-King said that “sometimes waiting helps you be a bit more economical”.

2)    Get your child vaccinated. Consider getting a flu vaccine for your children because this is the common sickness that pupils encounter, not just for your children but for you and your partner as well. Flu vaccine is the most recommended vaccine by U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some schools require pupils to be vaccinated before they can enroll. You may visit your child’s health care provider to know other recommended vaccines. Sometimes, sickness really can’t be avoided. You can make a Sick-Day Game Plan for you to be prepared if that day comes.

3)   Be health conscious. To help your kids prevent sickness and bringing germs at home, educate them properly by teaching them proper hygiene like washing of hands before eating and after using the restroom. With so much people around the school, the place is more prone to harmful microbes. Also, instruct them not to share foods and drinks right away to others. In addition, to promote the growth and development of your child, choose healthy food and drinks for them as their meals during school time. This is also one way that your family will avoid sickness.

4)    Re-establish school routines and practice independence. It is recommended to do this practice two weeks before the classes to make your child more equipped to go to school.  You can promote early bed time at home and early wake up call. Nurturing independence to your child is also possible here. Once the classroom door shuts, your child will need to manage a lot of things on his own. Get him ready for independence by talking ahead of time about responsibilities he’s old enough to shoulder. This might include organizing his school materials, writing down assignments, and bringing home homework, says Nicole Pfleger, school counselor at Nickajack Elementary School in Smyrna, GA. And, it is also important to get everyone on schedule so that everything will be organized and avoid stress, like setting up time and place for home works.

5)   Attend ‘Parents and Teachers Assocation’ Meetings. Orientations before classes are typically conducted in order for you to be familiarized with the culture and rules of the school. These are good chances also to meet other people who share same sentiments with you. This will help you interact with other parents.  And in here, you can meet the key players too, which are your child’s teachers, school counselors and principal. This is a good chance to develop healthy relationships with your child teachers, where you can raise and ask some concerns regarding your child’s performance, progress and for the campus’ activities.

American Heart Association Confirms Connection of Memory Health, Heart Health

Posted on: September 8th, 2014 by Steven Katz

The risk of developing cognitive impairment, especially learning and memory problems, is SterlingiStock_000016264875XSmallsignificantly greater for people with poor cardiovascular health than people with intermediate or ideal cardiovascular health, according to a recent study appearing in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Cardiovascular health plays a critical role in brain health, with several cardiovascular risk factors also playing a role in higher risk for cognitive decline.

Researchers found that people with the lowest cardiovascular health scores were more likely have impairment on learning, memory and verbal fluency tests than their counterparts with intermediate or better risk profiles.

The study involved 17,761 people aged 45 and older at the outset who had normal cognitive function and no history of stroke. Mental function was evaluated four years later.

Researchers used data from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) Study to determine cardiovascular health status based on The American Heart Association Life’s Simple 7™ score. The REGARDS study population is 55 percent women, 42 percent blacks, 58 percent whites and 56 percent are residents of the “stroke belt” states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The Life’s Simple 7™ initiative is a new system to measure the benefits of modifiable health behaviors and risk factors in cardiovascular health, such as smoking, diet, physical activity, body mass index, blood pressure, total cholesterol, and fasting glucose. It classifies each of the seven factors of heart health as either poor, intermediate or ideal.

After accounting for differences in age, sex, race and education, researchers identified cognitive impairment in:

  • 4.6 percent of people with the worst cardiovascular health scores;
  • 2.7 percent of those with intermediate health profiles; and
  • 2.6 percent of those in the best cardiovascular health category.

“Even when ideal cardiovascular health is not achieved, intermediate levels of cardiovascular health are preferable to low levels for better cognitive function,” said lead investigator Evan L. Thacker, Ph.D., an assistant professor and chronic disease epidemiologist at Brigham Young University Department of Health Science, in Provo, Utah.

“This is an encouraging message because intermediate cardiovascular health is a more realistic target for many individuals than ideal cardiovascular health.”

The differences were seen regardless of race, gender, pre-existing cardiovascular conditions, or geographic region, although higher cardiovascular health scores were more common in men, people with higher education, higher income, and among people without any cardiovascular disease.

Cognitive function assessments involved tests to measure verbal learning, memory and fluency. Verbal learning was determined using a three-trial, ten-item word list, while verbal memory was assessed by free recall of the ten-item list after a brief delay filled with non-cognitive questions. Verbal fluency was determined by asking each participant to name as many animals as possible in 60 seconds.

Although mechanisms that might explain the findings remain unclear, Thacker said that undetected subclinical strokes could not be ruled out.

Source: The American Heart Association. Visit to find heart health information for consumers and professionals.

Home Care Helps Seniors Manage Medications

Posted on: September 8th, 2014 by Steven Katz

The U.S. Census Bureau recently reported that the percentage of seniors who are living in a nursing Medication Adherencehome has dropped by 20 percent in the last decade—yet there are more seniors than ever, and the number is growing. Are seniors just healthier these days? The truth is, older adults need as much care as ever, but more of them are receiving it in assisted living communities, adult day centers—and for a growing number, in their own homes.

Most seniors would prefer to receive care in the comfort and familiar surroundings of their own home. Yet many have trouble with the activities of daily living and managing their healthcare, and that includes their medications. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the number of older adults hospitalized due to medication-related problems has doubled over the last decade, and the number is rising as the baby boomers age. For many seniors, the ability to manage their medications may be the deciding factor when they and their families are making the decision between home and an institutional care setting.

Medicines play an important part in senior health. They are beneficial in controlling many of the diseases and conditions that older adults experience, such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and heart disease.

But medications, whether prescribed by a doctor or bought over the counter, have potentially toxic side effects that can cause significant problems. For example, it is not at all uncommon for families to suspect dementia or depression in an older adult, when the symptoms are actually caused by undesirable effects from prescription drugs. Medication problems can lead to hospitalization and even death.

Undesirable effects of medications may be caused by:

  • Negative side effects of a drug
  • Interaction between one or more drugs
  • Overdose from taking too much of a single medication
  • Overmedication when two drugs work in a similar way
  • Changes in the way an older person’s body reacts to and processes certain drugs that allow a toxic level to build up.

Overmedication isn’t the only problem: if a senior misses doses, the drug may not be as effective.

Often, medication management problems result from the complexity of juggling a variety of drugs for various conditions. Compound the issue with multiple prescriptions, different times to take them, different ways they should be taken, and it’s easy to see why medication compliance is so complicated.Seniors living with memory problems are even more likely to take an extra dose or skip a dose.

Families worry about their older loved one’s ability to take prescriptions correctly. There are some relatively simple safeguards to take. Family can:

  • Help their loved one make a list of all medications and bring the list (or the medication containers) to their loved one’s doctor for a periodic review of all prescriptions.
  • Check their loved one’s medicine chest for old prescriptions that are no longer needed or have expired.
  • Help their loved one contact the healthcare provider if there are signs of bad side effects, such as a rash, headaches, drowsiness, dizziness or nausea.
  • Encourage their loved one to use a single pharmacy for all prescriptions so the pharmacist can help avoid drug interactions.

But when it comes to the daily monitoring of a medication regimen, families may feel helpless, wondering whether their parent is following the doctor’s recommendations. They worry when they aren’t around, and wonder if the senior is safe taking the medications properly. This is where home care can fill in the gap, providing an extra measure of safety and peace of mind.

Skilled nursing services can be provided in the home, including medication administration. Less costly personal care and companion services may also include certain medication support tasks, depending on state law. Caregivers can:

  • Remind senior clients to take medications on time and in the way they are supposed to be taken
  • Take clients to the pharmacy, or pick up prescriptions
  • Observe and report problems that might suggest side effects
  • Help senior clients learn to use pill organizers, dispensers, automatic reminders or other devices.

Medication management is just one of the many ways that home care workers can help seniors maintain their independence, and help family caregivers go about their daily tasks with confidence, knowing their loved one is safe.

Copyright © AgeWise, 2014

Alzheimer’s Caregiving Tips: Sundowning

Posted on: September 8th, 2014 by Steven Katz

Late afternoon and early evening can be difficult for some people with Alzheimer’s disease. They Going on a walkmay experience sundowning—restlessness, agitation, irritability, or confusion that can begin or worsen as daylight begins to fade—often just when tired caregivers need a break.
Sundowning can continue into the night, making it hard for people with Alzheimer’s to fall asleep and stay in bed. As a result, they and their caregivers may have trouble getting enough sleep and functioning well during the day.

Possible Causes

The causes of sundowning are not well understood. One possibility is that Alzheimer’s related brain changes can affect a person’s “biological clock,” leading to confused sleep-wake cycles. This may result in agitation and other sundowning behaviors.

Other possible causes of sundowning include being overly tired, unmet needs such as hunger or thirst, depression, pain and boredom.

Coping with Sundowning

Look for signs of sundowning in the late afternoon and early evening. These signs may include increased confusion or anxiety and behaviors such as pacing, wandering, or yelling. If you can, try to find the cause of the person’s behavior.

If the person with Alzheimer’s becomes agitated, listen calmly to his or her concerns and frustrations. Try to reassure the person that everything is OK and distract him or her from stressful or upsetting events. You can also try these tips:

  • Reduce noise, clutter, or the number of people in the room.
  • Try to distract the person with a favorite snack, object, or activity. For example, offer a drink, suggest a simple task like folding towels, or turn on a familiar TV show (but not the news or other shows that might be upsetting).
  • Make early evening a quiet time of day. You might play soothing music, read, or go for a walk. You could also have a family member or friend call during this time.
  • Close the curtains or blinds at dusk to minimize shadows and the confusion they may cause. Turn on lights to help minimize shadows.

Preventing Sundowning

Being too tired can increase late afternoon and early-evening restlessness. Try to avoid this situation by helping the person:

  • go outside or at least sit by the window—exposure to bright light can help reset the person’s body clock
  • get physical activity or exercise each day
  • get daytime rest if needed, but keep naps short and not too late in the day
  • get enough rest at night

Avoid things that seem to make sundowning worse:

  • Do not serve coffee, cola, or other drinks with caffeine late in the day.
  • Do not serve alcoholic drinks. They may add to confusion and anxiety.
  • Do not plan too many activities during the day. A full schedule can be tiring.

If Problems Persist

If sundowning continues to be a problem, seek medical advice. A medical exam may identify the cause of sundowning, such as pain, a sleep disorder or other illness, or a medication side effect.

If medication is prescribed to help the person relax and sleep better at night, be sure to find out about possible side effects. Some medications can increase the chances of dizziness, falls, and confusion. Doctors recommend using them only for short periods of time.

Source:  The U.S. Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center, a service of the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health. For more caregiving tips and resources, visit or call toll-free 1-800-438-4380.

Labor Day Salute: “Older Workers Wordfind”

Posted on: September 8th, 2014 by Steven Katz

The U.S. Bureau of Labor predicts that more and more seniors will continue working during the period Solving crosswordsof life long considered “the retirement years.” The baby boom generation is expected to combine work and private time in new ways that reflect both changing technologies and changing ideas about aging.

Whether remaining in long-term positions or taking the leap into a late-life career change, mature workers bring many advantages to their companies.

In honor of Labor Day, give your brain a workout with this puzzle  which contains 20 words employers use to describe these seasoned employees!

Need a little help? Click here  for the solution.

Copyright © IlluminAge AgeWise, 2014

Another Great Reason to Read and Play Games With Your Grandchildren

Posted on: September 8th, 2014 by Steven Katz

By now most of us have heard about the benefits of brain exercise. Reading, writing, games andPlaying Blocks with Grandpa
other mentally stimulating activities help build healthy brains as we grow up, and may continue to help us preserve our memory and cognitive abilities well into our later years. And if you do these activities with your grandchildren, you both benefit!

In a recent issue of Neurology, researchers reported that people in a study who had participated in mentally stimulating activities throughout their lives had a slower decline in memory—despite the fact that their brains showed the characteristic plaques and tangles in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease and/or damage from stroke and other conditions associated with dementia. In other words, although these seniors brains showed deteriorating changes, they were nonetheless able to continue to function well due to “cognitive reserve”—the brain’s ability to form extra connections that we can use even as others are lost. “Our study suggests that exercising your brain by taking part in activities such as these across a person’s lifetime, from childhood through old age, is important for brain health in old age,” said study author Robert S. Wilson, PhD, with Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

While it is never too late to add brain-healthy activities to our routine, it is also never too early! Wilson says, “Based on this, we shouldn’t underestimate the effects of activities such as reading and writing on our children, ourselves and our parents or grandparents.” So, while you are indulging in brain-healthy activities, remind the younger people in your life to do the same!

Source: AgeWise reporting on American Academy of Neurology study.

It’s Never Too Late to Start an Exercise Program

Posted on: September 8th, 2014 by Steven Katz

Study after study shows that physical activity is the top factor influencing how healthy we will be in Elderly Exerciselater life. While there are no 100 percent guarantees when it comes to good health, we know that exercise helps us maintain physical, emotional and intellectual well-being—factors that work together to protect us from many common diseases and conditions that become more common as we age.

Recently, researchers from the University of Western Australia released results of study that demonstrates this benefit. They studied 12,000 elderly Australian men over the course of 13 years, and found that those who took part in 150 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week added two to three years to their lives—and those years were healthier, more independent years.

Lead author Prof. Osvaldo Almeida said, “Not only were the active people more likely than non-active people to survive, but those who were alive and active when we followed up had reached old age in good shape, without evidence of depression or cognitive or functional problems.”

Is it ever too late to take up exercise? Some of the study participants who had been inactive most of their lives took up exercise during the follow-up period. Reports Prof. Almeida, “Those who started out inactive but became more active as time went by benefited as well. Not as much as the ones who were active at the beginning and the end, but quite a bit more than those who were inactive throughout.”

What if we turn into couch potatoes later on? Prof. Almeida found that the men who were active at the beginning of the study but let their exercise routine lapse over the years all but lost the health benefits of their previous activity. He says, “It’s better to become active than to be active and stop. By engaging in regular physical activity, older people not only survive longer, but they ensure that the chance of them aging successfully—without significant functional impairments—also increases. Not only do they add years to life, but they add quality to their years.”

Source: AgeWise reporting on study from University of Western Australia

Are Emergency Rooms Senior-Friendly?

Posted on: August 21st, 2014 by Steven Katz

A report from the American College of Emergency Physicians calls for increased trainingmedical staff helping senior patient in geriatrics for emergency room personnel, as well as ER features that support the needs of older patients. Researchers examined data from around the world and found that many senior patients experienced functional and cognitive problems after a trip to the hospital after a fall or other health event.

Said study author Dr. Leonard Gray of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, “These patients have complex profiles before they come to the ER, and even more complicated needs once they get there. Dependence on others and geriatric illnesses, such as cognitive impairment and mobility problems, affect the majority of older emergency patients across a wide range of nations with different health systems and cultural contexts. They require specialized care to avoid missed diagnoses, pressure ulcers and a range of other potential problems associated with this particular population.”

With the growing senior population, more hospitals in the U.S. have established specialized ER facilities for older adults. Said Dr. Gray, “Frailty, confusion and dependence on others make these our most fragile emergency patients. Specialized training in geriatric care and even specialized layout and procedures can help us provide the best assessment and care.”

The study appeared in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Source: AgeWise reporting on study from the American College of Emergency Physicians 

Growing Older Leads to Greater Emotional Stability

Posted on: August 21st, 2014 by Steven Katz

It’s a prediction often met with worry: in fewer than 20 years, there will be more Long Term Care Planning Sterling CareAmericans over 60 than under 15. Some fear this will mean an aging society with an increasing number of impaired people and fewer youngsters to care for them while also keeping the country’s productivity going.

The concerns are valid, but a study from Stanford University shows there’s a silver lining to the graying of our nation. As we grow older, we tend to become more emotionally stable. And that translates into longer, more productive lives that offer more benefits than problems, according to Laura Carstensen, the study’s lead author.
“As people age, they’re more emotionally balanced and better able to solve highly emotional problems,” said Carstensen, a psychology professor and director of the Stanford Center on Longevity. “We may be seeing a larger group of people who can get along with a greater number of people. They care more and are more compassionate about problems, and that may lead to a more stable world.”

Over the course of twelve years, Carstensen and her colleagues tracked about 180 Americans between the ages of 18 and 94. For one week every five years, the study participants carried pagers and were required to immediately respond to a series of questions whenever the devices buzzed. The periodic quizzes were intended to chart how happy, satisfied and comfortable they were at any given time.

Carstensen’s study, which was published in the journal Psychology and Aging, was an effort to answer questions asked over and over again by social scientists: are seniors today who say they’re happy simply part of a socioeconomic era that predisposed them to good cheer? Or do most people—whether born and reared in boom times or busts—have it within themselves to reach their golden years with a smile? The answer has important implications for future aging societies. “Our findings suggest that it doesn’t matter when you were born,” Carstensen said. “In general, people get happier as they get older.”

Over the years, the older subjects reported having fewer negative emotions and more positive ones compared with their younger days. But even with the good outweighing the bad, older people were inclined to report a mix of positive and negative emotions more often than younger test subjects.

“As people get older, they’re more aware of mortality,” Carstensen said. “So when they see or experience moments of wonderful things, that often comes with the realization that life is fragile and will come to an end. But that’s a good thing. It’s a signal of strong emotional health and balance.”

Carstensen attributes the change in older people to her theory of “socio-emotional selectivity,” which is a scientific way of saying that people invest in what’s most important to them when time is limited. While teenagers and young adults experience more frustration, anxiety and disappointment over things like test scores, career goals and finding a soul mate, older people typically have made their peace with life’s accomplishments and failures. In other words, they have less ambiguity to stress about.

“This all suggests that as our society is aging, we will have a greater resource,” Carstensen said. “If people become more even-keeled as they age, older societies could be wiser and kinder societies.”

So what, then, do we make of the “grumpy old man” stereotype? “Most of the grumpy old men out there are grumpy young men who grew old,” Carstensen said. “Aging isn’t going to turn someone grumpy into someone who’s happy-go-lucky. But most people will gradually feel better as they grow older.”

Source: Stanford Center on LongevityThe Center’s website offers news and updates about research pertaining to aging and quality of life.