Struggling to be Happy – Even When I’m Old

Published in The Journal of  Applied Philosophy Vol.19 Issue 1 pp. 17-30 2002

Read online at


My thesis seeks to reduce what may be a natural human antipathy to ageing
and/or the elderly by working with one distinctive and consistently approved
feature of some older people. This feature is a bold and cheerful struggle
within a self-chosen project. The argument opens by distinguishing short-term
gratification from lasting, fulfilling happiness, and showing the link between
gratification and dependence. Three kinds of struggle (non-voluntary,
part-voluntary and positive) are then outlined and exemplified. Gerontological
and anthropological research suggest that attitudes to struggle are fixed early
in life, and while in the past they mitigated for or against successful
survival, they now influence happiness and coping in later life. I argue that
the negative effects of the first two kinds of struggle – which are often
misguided, grudging or ‘no-win’ struggles – are responsible for the rigidity,
narcissism and resentment disliked in some older people. Self-respect,
contrasted with self-righteousness, is shown to accrue only from the positive
(voluntary and congenial) struggle that seems at any age to deflect or
compensate for depression, disappointment, loneliness and illness.


Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: