How to deal with a study that finds old folks are happier than young 'uns?

I could go personal – I was just at my parents' with three generations of Rubin men: one son, age 18, freshly retrieved from college; one father, 82 and starting to lose the steadiness of his legs; one columnist, 52, and looking for material close to home.

My dad says the study's right. He wakes up joyous, relieved of the responsibility of making payroll. The hardware store saw its share of hard times. Yes, he's not sure what will happen with his spine, which is starting to squeeze his nerves. When people ask how he is, he says "fine," because he doesn't want them worrying or feeling sorry for him. It's all good still.

In fact, the youngest in the house that weekend did seem pretty happy – treated to non-institutional food, a soft bed, and facing a summer with no set plans. And me in the middle – worrying about both of them.

Too small a sample, I concluded, regardless of how game my dad was to help with the column, even phoning in on updates about friends who have entered assisting-living places. (My favorite is the guy who got pissed off that the center wouldn't let his nurse/assistant eat dinner in the dining room. Members only. So he married her.)

Instead, I summoned the ancient Greek chorus that has served before as the column's muse: the women of the Elder Wisdom Circle in Doylestown's Heritage Towers. They dole out advice to the love-tossed via their Web site. They were joined last week by one man, Walt Weber, who happened to be a former hardware man. Said he was happy to wake up and not have to worry about making payroll. Figure that. The ladies took control of the couple hours we shared, and gave me loads more material than I could use in today's column.

The point of which is to say, Life is most enjoyed by those with a little perspective. Envy not Lindsay Lohan or Tom Brady. But what we could do with their money. And hair.