Researchers at Iowa State University say their study of people who’re over 80 lived longer and were happier because they felt good about themselves. I.S.U.  professor of human development and family studies, Peter Martin, says those who could talk about good life experiences, had fewer concerns in old age.

Martin says the secret to happiness lies way in the past and the experiences you’ve had all your life. He says if you have the opportunity as an older person to talk about those experiences, you tend to be a happier person. Martin says people want to feel they’re still relevant, and talking about their life helps that feeling.

He says people who don’t have the chance to talk about important events in their life have too much time to think about the things that don’t work anymore, such as vision and hearing. Talking about the past good things is easier than complaining about the things that are bothering you. Martin says even if you had some bad experiences early in life — talking about them will help you when you’re older.

Martin says people still like to talk about those bad experiences, because there is some distance from them, and it is still something you can talk about, and it is good to talk about it. Martin says worry and anxiety contribute to depression in older people and getting a chance to talk about the past helps you forget the bad things.

He says it means that you matter and people are interested in your life and it increases your level of self esteem. Martin is the director of Iowa State’s gerontology program, and says the research is something that can be used by professionals who work with older people. It also applies to anyone in general who wants to listen and help.

Martin says we often don’t look for the opportunities to talk to people about what makes them a really happy person. He says we just assume everything is about their health, while health is the whole story. Martin says even a brief conversation can have an impact on someone.