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Artist’s statement: Aging makes you happier

Coming up with a good concept requires trying out a few ideas before settling on the best one.

For this illustration, I was trying to emphasize the stereotype that older people are weak and helpless. The drawing has an old lady who has a weak body but a happy face. I thought this can show the writing’s main theme because it is the most important part of the article; relationship between aging and happiness which the authors called trend “paradoxical” that older people are physically unhealthy but mentally healthier than young adults. I knew that there are some people who have what we call Peter Pan Syndrome do not want to become adults. They think adults experience more stress than kids. However, the study referenced in the article “Studies Show that Aging Makes You Happier?” showed that people feel happier when they are over their 40’s because elders are more physically disabled, but they have better mental health than those in their 20’s and 30’s.

While working on my illustration, I was confused about what to draw because in the article it says “compared to younger adults, older individuals tend to be more skilled at emotional regulation and complex social decision-making and tend to exhibit more natural information processing.” However, it also says “because it was a correlational study, the results do not necessarily prove that people are actually getting happier as they age.” I thought I needed to draw both brain sketches at the same time. Thus, I drew two different images on one paper: people in their 20’s and 30’s having poorer mental health than older people, and seniors who are less physically healthy but have better emotional health. Although I drew the images, I could not use it because if I drew the exercising brains, the reader would imply that the article will be about exercising, not that aging makes people happier. Because I drew two exercising drawing, the readers think the article is about the weight training. Also, the overall image would be too visually complicated and busy if it was a combination of three images..

While reading the article, I tried to get the main idea for my illustration, which is that there is a connection between aging and happiness; older people are happier. When I realized the main point, I wondered which illustration would best fit the article. The article says “although older people were physically more disabled and had more cognitive impairment, they were mentally healthier than people in their 20s and 30s.” When I read this sentence, my first draft had two exercising brains and one strong arm: one was healthy with a happy face and one was unhealthy and depressed. I decided to draw the arm to symbolize physical health because I remembered the cartoon “Popeye” whose character has extremely powerful arms. For mental health, I drew a depressed brain that was exercising with an exhausted face because I wanted to show the young adult’s psychological problems; compared to older people, people in their 20’s and 30’s scored higher in their level of depression and pressure from society.

While reading this article, I thought about how Generations X and Y have more stress than older people because of the stress of competing for places in post-secondary schools; for example, people want to go to the best universities, but because schools have a limited number of spaces, they only take students who have the highest marks. This means students who want to go better university, they need to spend all their energy for studying and this adds to the stress levels of young people.

However, after finishing my first draft of illustration, it was closer to portraying exercising, which is totally different from the topic. Therefore, I threw out my first draft and thought of another idea that is still related to the main idea but is more simplified.

I needed to think of the main theme of the article, so I decided to show a stereotype about the elderly. There are some connections between the stereotypes about the elderly and the main idea of article. The stereotypes are that older people find it more difficult to use their body than young adults do and have poorer mental health because of their poor physical health. However, the survey showed that people in their over 40’s have “lower levels of depression, anxiety, and stress, and higher levels of happiness compared to the younger group.”

During drawing the illustration, I focused on the physical health of older people. When I saw the sentence “older people were physically more disabled,” I only had one idea which I thought was enough. My final drawing was to draw an old grandma with a contented face. I drew a wobbly body with a walking stick because most people would think older people would have weak bodies. I also drew zigzag lines near the grandma’s body to show that her body is shaking, again suggesting she has a frail body. In the picture, she is smiling even though she is trembling, which shows a paradox. I think this can show the irony of the main point, which is that people become happier when they are getting older. That irony is expressed by a poor physical body but a smiling face.

The article “Studies show that aging makes you happier?” called this trend “paradoxical” because the elders are more physically unhealthy, but they have a healthier mentality. The problems during this project was that I did not know how to put the main idea and my opinion together. First, it was completely different: my idea and the theme; aging and exercising. Thus, I needed to fix it but I did not know how. My mom suggested to try to think of an easier way, like simply a way to show the main theme. Before I sketched the illustration, my stereotype of older people was they are weak, need help, and depressed. However, the study is ironic: older people are physically unhealthy but mentally healthy. Therefore, I decided to draw my final draft of illustration which was an weak-old lady with happy face.

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