Louisa Jewell Interview – Happiness & Longevity, Part 2

As of today, the Stanford Center on Longevity 3rd annual Design Challenge has yet to announce the contest finalists. However, I will continue with part 2 of my Jan.7th interview with Louisa Jewell, Founder and President of the Canadian Positive Psychology Association.

Exploring a little more around this notion of the 2015-16 Stanford Design theme “Using Happiness to Optimize Longevity”, I asked Louisa the question – when we think of the human life course, how does our view of happiness change at different stages as we age?

Louisa JewellLouisa:

“When we’re younger we are focused on more hedonistic type happiness, meaning more of the thrill seeking activities, positive emotion, joyful experiences, going out having fun with friends…. And as we get older we find happiness and contentment in more meaningful things…

There is a ‘pillar of meaning’ in positive psychology that says as people get older they become more resilient, because they have been through more and so they feel that even if they have had these certain life experiences that may have been more tragic, they have learned and grown from them. We have this concept in positive psychology called post-traumatic growth… where we’ve taken something terrible and actually had it transform our life for the better.

What we’ve learned from studies of older people is that they take those life lessons into new experiences, and see life with new perspectives, and that’s how happiness changes over our life time.”

One thing that contributes to positive aging, which may stem from this concept of post-traumatic growth, is the degree to which someone stays socially engaged. There are those in their later years who are alone and deteriorate with social isolation, so now we have new challenges to our happiness.

Louisa:

“That’s what I hope will come out of this design contest at Stanford. In everything we study in positive psychology, what we have found is that social connectedness is critical to happiness and well-being, – ‘it’s not a nice to have’ …. People die when they are lonely or disengaged from other people, so anything we can do (in design), to connect older people to some sort of community, some social interaction is a good thing…

Not just Skype calls or emailing, but to be able to have some real human interaction. There is a difference when I’m looking into your eyes, a different physiological response in my body …”

With all our positive moves to optimize longevity through the promotion of technology-based design of products and services, the issue that Louisa brings up is an important one in the future; and that is maintaining real human interaction – augmented by technology design. This also ties in to one of the three Stanford Longevity categories – mobility. If you design things that will increase a person’s mobility as they age, then that will hopefully leverage human interaction, which will in turn improve happiness.

This brings us full circle back to one of the questions in Part 1 of the interview with Louisa Jewell – Is happiness something you actually utilize as an outlook or, is it an outcome of some action? Well it is both. And as far as outcomes of actions are concerned, no doubt we will know more by next week about who the finalists are in the Stanford Center on Longevity 3rd annual Design Challenge. The Top 3 winners will be announced after the judging process by April 2016.

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