Study: The Older You Are, the Happier

Some of the most emailed, viewed and commented on stories on the web, including research that suggests the blues get sweet with old age.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Hey there. Welcome back to the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. We're always online at npr.org/bryantpark. We like to intro our segments that we do here on the show. But every once in awhile, there's a segment that is so profound, so compelling, it needs no introduction. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Most.

(Soundbite of music)

DAN PASHMAN: I think that was an introduction.

MARTIN: I.e., a copout.

(Soundbite of laughter)

IAN CHILLAG: I don't understand what this segment's supposed to be about. What am I supposed to do here?

MARTIN: Then you're excused from the room, Ian. You've been here long enough to know. OK, I will reiterate. These are the most-emailed, most-read, most-viewed stories on the Internet.

CHILLAG: Got it.

MARTIN: OK. You're going to start, since you were such a smart aleck.

MIKE PESCA, host:

Somehow you have an example of this segment that you didn't even understand. Let's see if you got it right.

CHILLAG: Let's not split hairs. This is a most-popular from the Minot Daily News in North Dakota. It's about Shyane Myers. She's the only graduate from, uh, I'm sorry, Newburg United High School there. She's the only one. So she's the valedictorian...

MARTIN: She's one person in her entire graduating class, OK.

CHILLAG: She's the only one graduating...

PASHMAN: She's also the last in the...

CHILLAG: She'll be making the speech at graduation. She's also the last...

MARTIN: That's not because everybody flunked. That's because there's only one.

CHILLAG: No, there's only one. There were two last year, but the other student - half the class - transferred to another school...

MARTIN: Traumatizing.

PESCA: Because she was getting picked on by the popular clique?

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHILLAG: Yeah, yeah. And now Shyane is actually - she's all the popular kids and she's the one they pick on.

PESCA: Yeah, and she's the outcast.

PASHMAN: She must have to kick her own butt all the time.

CHILLAG: It's good, though. She's most likely to succeed, also most likely to fail.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHILLAG: She's the jock, the burnout. She plays volleyball. I don't know how many other people are on the volleyball team. Other classes at this school have around 70...

PESCA: Volleyball is a very tough sport for an individual...

CHILLAG: It is, it is...

PESCA: Because if you set the ball, you cannot spike the ball.

CHILLAG: Yeah. Yeah.

MARTIN: She probably plays with other people...

PATRICIA MCKINNEY: They might have Minot rules.

PESCA: Yeah.

CHILLAG: Play by Minot rules. Yeah, so...

MARTIN: So great, great for her.

CHILLAG: Like I said, she'll be making the speech. It's going to be a very short ceremony, the graduation.

MARTIN: Congratulations.

PESCA: Yeah, she'll hold it in her living room. Rachel, what have you got?

MARTIN: OK, moving on. You know what? Happier people are generally older people. This is according to one of the most-emailed stories at cnn.com. And this new scientific study at the University of Chicago - they're smart there - their study says that most of the time when you get older, you begin to lower your expectations about what should be happening in your life...

PASHMAN: Yes.

MARTIN: And you desire - the things you desired when you were younger, you kind of realize I'm not going to be Christie Brinkley - gosh, that's really dating me, isn't it? I'm not going to be...

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: Or you're terrified that you may be Christie Brinkley.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Yeah.

PASHMAN: Yeah, when was that moment for you, Rachel?

MARTIN: I'm not going to be Sanjaya. I will not be a radio host, no.

PESCA: Right. I will not be Zsa Zsa Gabor or Swedish nightingale, Jenny Lynn.

MARTIN: You learn to be more content with what life has dealt you. I don't find this sad at all. I think that part of the angst of being young is knowing that you have all these choices and possibility, and it can kind of paralyze you and make you afraid and discontented. And as you get older, you release that into the ether and you just are. That's my little Zen moment, OK?

PESCA: I like it. Also, you know that Disney is not going to be targeting you with a new version of "High School Musical."

MARTIN: That's true.

PESCA: That, I think, is relaxing.

PASHMAN: That'll make anyone happy.

MARTIN: Tricia.

PESCA: Tricia.

MCKINNEY: Hello. OK, I have, again, on your Google Trends, the number-seven item today is the name Sue Simmons.

PESCA: Sue Simmons! Beloved "Live at Five" anchor, Sue Simmons?

MCKINNEY: Yes, and also the anchor of the 11 o'clock news here in New York City.

MARTIN: That's just in New York here, for everyone else.

PESCA: WNBC long-time anchor.

MCKINNEY: I got it, I got it. OK, Sue Simmons is a local news anchor here in New York City. She anchors the 11 o'clock show, and it's important to know that because here's what people were searching at about 11 o'clock last night. "Sue Simmons' curse." "Sue Simmons curses." "Sue Simmons' apology." "What did Sue Simmons say?" And finally, YouTube.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MCKINNEY: So, what did Sue Simmons say? Hit it, Josh.

(Soundbite of TV show "NewsChannel 4 at 11 p.m.")

Ms. SUE SIMMONS (Anchor, "NewsChannel 4 at 11 p.m."): At 11, paying more at the grocer, but getting less. We'll tell you how to get the most. What the (bleep) are you doing?

(Soundbite of laughter)

MCKINNEY: So, apparently...

PESCA: Context...?

MCKINNEY: Well, not apparently, I actually heard the un-bleeped version. She did drop an F-bomb on the air. It was during a promo for the 11 o'clock news last night. And - no idea why the F-bomb was dropped or what the bleep...

PESCA: Yeah.

MCKINNEY: Somebody was doing, but she did come on the air after the 11 o'clock newscast and apologize. And so now, if you go on the WNBC website...

MARTIN: Oh, man...

MCKINNEY: The top two most-popular stories, number one is apology, where she says "I have to acknowledge that I used a word many people find offensive. It was a mistake and I'm truly sorry." And the number two most-popular story on WNBC is her bio. I think people are looking to see if she still works there.

PESCA: Or like, what's - are there any examples of her past that could have led us to this point? What explains this outburst?

MARTIN: Yeah, anytime a newsperson accidentally swears on air, it should be called the "Sue Simmons' curse."

MCKINNEY: And here's the thing, you know, I feel really weird about reporting on this, because, you know, now we're bringing all that down on our heads. Like, this is live radio...

MARTIN: Hurry, knock on wood!

MCKINNEY: Knock wood.

PESCA: Little known fact that NBC political reporter Gabe Pressman used to open for Lenny Bruce in the '50s. He worked blue at the time.

MCKINNEY: Yeah, that's not true.

PESCA: That's a joke that only New Yorkers will get, and most of them won't like either. OK, very good.

MARTIN: Dan.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Save Mike from himself.

PASHMAN: I'll do what I can. Most-emailed on Yahoo! "New York Man Sues Airline over Flight Spent in Toilet." I guess he...

PESCA: He told me he was flying JetBlue.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PASHMAN: Yeah, he wasn't impressed that he didn't have to wait in line for the bathroom. He was told there were no more seats on the flight, and he said, what do you mean? I've got a ticket on this plane. They said, all right, well, look, there's a flight attendant. She'll fly in the jump seat. That's that special fold-down seat...

MARTIN: He was flying stand-by, we should say.

PASHMAN: He says he thinks he had a ticket...

MARTIN: Oh...

PASHMAN: But maybe he misunderstood. We'll leave that up to the airline to explain. So, they said, all right, look, you can have a seat. The flight attendant will sit in the jump-seat. An hour and a half into the five-hour, across-the-country flight, the pilot says, look, the stewardess, I'm sorry, the flight attendant, she's unhappy. She's uncomfortable. You're going to have to go sit in the bathroom. And the guy's like...

PESCA: The flight attendant is uncomfortable?

PASHMAN: Right. So this gentleman was very upset. He put up a fight. The pilot basically told him, tough, buddy, I'm the pilot. This is according to the lawsuit. He allegedly told the man that. And he ended spending the next three and a half hours sitting on the toilet on this JetBlue flight, without a seatbelt, which is in violation of the federal law.

MARTIN: Did he get beverage service?

PESCA: Yeah, peanuts, anything?

PASHMAN: That is not stated...

MARTIN: Not disclosed.

PASHMAN: He didn't get TV...

PESCA: No food in the bathroom...

PASHMAN: Which is the best reason to fly Jet Blue...

CHILLAG: Yeah.

PASHMAN: So...

MARTIN: Thanks, Dan.

PESCA: It seems like...

PASHMAN: He's suing for two million dollars.

PESCA: It seems like how often they site FCC regulations about not crossing your legs that they shouldn't have the leeway to do that, it would seem to me. But I don't know, maybe he's just trying to make money.

MARTIN: Matt Martinez, you're wrapping up The Most today.

MATT MARTINEZ: I am, I am. I have one of the most-emailed stories at npr.org right now. It's headlined, "Denver Drivers Learn How to Boost Fuel Economy." I know, exciting.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTINEZ: It actually is very exciting.

MARTIN: Silence befalls the room!

MARTIN: The story is reported by Zachary Barr at Colorado Public Radio. It's about how some Denver residents are using this gadget in their cars to help them driver greener. Here's the story.

ZACHARY BARR: In the '80s teen movie, "License to Drive," Corey Haim is Les Anderson, a teenager desperate to get his drivers' license.

(Soundbite of movie "License to Drive")

Mr. JAMES AVERY: (As Les' DMV Examiner) Buckle up, son. It's the real world out here!

BARR: When Les Anderson's at the DMV, the examiner gets into the car and places a hot cup of coffee on the dashboard.

Mr. AVERY: (As Les' DMV Examiner) Now that coffee's hot, filled right to the brim. If it spilled on me, it would probably burn me, huh? Speak up, son!

Mr. COREY HAIM: (As Les Anderson) Yeah! Yeah!

Mr. AVERY: (As Les' DMV Examiner) Nobody likes to get burned, do they?

Mr. HAIM: (As Les Anderson) No!

BARR: The examiner declared then exactly how he'll score Anderson's driving test.

Mr. AVERY: (As Les' DMV Examiner) So, it's real simple. You burn me, you fail. You don't, you pass. It's as simple as that.

BARR: Well, right now in Denver, a similar sort of driving test is taking place. The goal of this test, though, is learning that your aggressive-driving behavior, say, the kind that makes you spill a cup of coffee, is linked to excessive fuel use. Ron Adamchek (ph) is one of a couple hundred volunteers to sign up for the pilot program called Driving Change.

Mr. RON ADAMCHEK (Participant, Driving Change): Kind of the three areas of aggressive driving, one is over speed - over 60 miles per hour, hard breaking and fast starts.

BARR: When Adamchek breaks too abruptly or takes a corner too quickly, a device in his pickup sends data to a website. And today, he's online checking out his driving stats for the first time.

Mr. ADAMCHEK: So we can see, a few days ago, I drove approximately 22 miles, and then also showing me my number of events for aggressive driving. And so, on that day a few days ago, I had three hard-breaking events.

BARR: This information is important to Adamchek. He says the folks running the program claim a 10-to-30-percent fuel savings is possible, just by adjusting driving habits. Adamchek's truck gets about 12 miles to the gallon around town, so he's especially keen to save money on gas. David Armitage is the CEO of Cartasite, the company that makes the hardware.

Mr. DAVID ARMITAGE (Chief Executive Officer, Cartasite): This was the first attempt anywhere on the planet that we're aware of to correlate driving behavior to greenhouse-gas emissions.

BARR: Collecting data from several hundred vehicles is key. That's because the program's goal goes beyond just rating individuals. Armitage says the data will help define aggressive driving.

Mr. ARMITAGE: The goal of our study is really to enable us to define that shape in that bell curve and understand what normal behavior is. Once we have done that, we will take that information and we can put it right back into the device.

BARR: A device that will tell you if you're breaking more, speeding more, or even idling more than the average driver. At that point, Armitage and his partners hope to have a product to sell.

Mr. ARMITAGE: We believe that the next generation of this device will actually be inside the cab of the vehicle and will have a small screen on it.

BARR: That's still a ways off. In the meantime, Ron Adamchek says just knowing the device is watching over his makes a difference.

Mr. ADAMCHEK: You know, I know now to - the light's red - to glide to the stop. I know that I (unintelligible) at starting, and I'm not usually first in line, so that's not going to help. I would say my driving habit has improved in ten days, just by knowing this is installed in my car.

BARR: He says even improving merely a mile or two per gallon would be great. And he's not ready to trade in his truck just yet.

PESCA: And that is Zachary Barr from Colorado Public Radio reporting. You can find this and all the stories you hear on The Most at our website, npr.org/bryantpark.

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