Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study
Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks
Date: December 2013
Duration: 12 hours 41 minutes
At a time when many people around the world are living into their tenth decade, the longest longitudinal study of human development ever undertaken offers some welcome news for the new old age: our lives continue to evolve in our later years and often become more fulfilling than before.
Begun in 1938, the Grant Study of Adult Development charted the physical and emotional health of over two hundred men, starting with their undergraduate days. The now-classic Adaptation to Life reported on the men’s lives up to age fifty-five and helped us understand adult maturation. Now George Vaillant follows the men into their nineties, documenting for the first time what it is like to flourish far beyond conventional retirement.
Reporting on all aspects of male life—including relationships, politics and religion, coping strategies, and alcohol use—Triumphs of Experience shares a number of surprising findings. For example, the people who do well in old age did not necessarily do so well in midlife and vice versa. While the study confirms that recovery from a lousy childhood is possible, memories of a happy childhood are a lifelong source of strength. Marriages bring much more contentment after age seventy, and physical aging after eighty is determined less by heredity than by habits formed prior to age fifty. The credit for growing old with grace and vitality, it seems, goes more to ourselves than to our stellar genetic makeup.
“The beauty of the Grant Study is that, as Vaillant emphasizes, it has followed its subjects for nine decades. The big finding is that you can teach an old dog new tricks. The men kept changing all the way through, even in their 80s and 90s.”—New York Times