What Japanese People In Their 80s & 90s Can Teach Us About Staying Hopeful

The report, which was conducted by Iza Kavedija, Ph.D., of the University of Exeter, focused on people in their 80s and 90s, via long-term ethnographic fieldwork near Osaka.

The older community was found to foster feelings of “quiet hope,” with a belief that things would work out “somehow” (the term used is “nantonaku,” which loosely translates to “for some reason or another”). In essence, they accepted the uncertainty of their future and didn’t allow it to stop them from living an engaging life—which provided peace of mind, and a sense of hope or optimism.

“An attitude of gratitude was embedded in older peoples’ recollections of the past,” said Kavedija, “but also allowed them to think about the present in a hopeful way. A world in which one has received much good will from others is a different place than one in which one has experienced loss, even if the facts of life are the same.”

So in tandem with embracing a general optimism for their remaining life, these people also concentrated on reframing their remembrances. For example, rather than dwelling on abilities they may have lost with age, they focused on gratitude for the support of other people in their life.

“If one habitually invokes the involvement of others and their role in one’s life, one is reminded how much other people have helped them, in countless small and more substantive ways.” she also explained, “The same events seem different when one focuses on how others have helped.”

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