John O'Connor
John O’Connor
John O'Connor
John O’Connor

One of the odd quirks of senior living is that it is full of happy workers and unhappy residents.

It’s not too difficult to see why so many residents are not feeling so great. That’s because many, quite literally, are not feeling so great. Pain can be a regular companion. Loss is a part of the experience. And few residents have better days to look forward to. Those challenges really can take a toll.

And it’s not always teddy bears and warm blankets for employees, either. Unless you happen to be an owner or a company officer, the pay typically is not much to rave about. The hours can be long. Weekends and holidays often are a part of the deal. And, oh, the demands of the job can be mentally, physically and emotionally challenging.

Yet we all know those coworkers who perpetually seem to be in a good mood. I do sometimes wonder what it is that makes some people happy, no matter what.

Dan Buettner has wondered the same thing. But unlike me, he actually has done something about it. More to the point, he has spent a good part of his life traveling around the world to find some definitive answers about what contributes to a life happily lived.

He writes about his discoveries in the November issue of National Geographic, which actually is an excerpt from his book, “Blue Zones of Happiness.”

You probably won’t be surprised to find that the United States is not rated near the top. Our best candidate seems to be Boulder, CO. But for the most part, we are lagging far behind the pack leaders: Denmark, Costa Rica and Singapore.

What seems to set people in those distant locales apart is their higher than average immersion in what he calls the three strands of happiness: joy, purpose and satisfaction.

So how do we get to those happy places, at least figuratively? He recommends that we put nudges in place to help move us along. For example, take financial security. Something as simple as setting up automatic savings plans and purchasing insurance can make a huge difference.

When it comes to the workday, he believes relationships — or to be more specific, good relationships — are essential. The biggest link he found to job happiness is whether people have good friends there.

In fact, he argues that relationships are really the key to lifelong happiness. Believe it or not, the happiest people in America socialize about seven hours a day, he notes.

In this sector, trying to spend more time socializing can be a real challenge. But if Buettner is to be believed, the effort appears to be well worth it.

John O’Connor is editorial director of McKnight’s Senior Living. Email him at [email protected].