Professor Armando Barrientos, research director at Manchester University's Brooks World Poverty Institute in England, and colleagues said the average levels of well-being experienced by older people in South Africa and Brazil improved from 2002 to 2008.
"Our work contradicts many of the assumptions people have about the fate of older people in developing countries -- it's often assumed that people will become poorer and increasingly unhappy with life as they become old, but in South Africa and Brazil the opposite seems to have happened," Barrientos said in a statement.
"They are leading countries in their respective regions, with innovative social policies addressing poverty and vulnerability, such as child and disability benefits, low interest loans for the elderly and non-contributory pension schemes."
About 1,000 households in both South Africa and Brazil were surveyed in 2002 and again in 2008/2009. In addition, more than 30 semi-structured interviews were collected in each country, the researchers said.
The findings suggested well being had improved and that the majority of older people in the two countries felt satisfied or very satisfied with their lives and with their relationships with other family members.
The improvement in happiness was strongly influenced by economic performance and labor market conditions, but social policy also played a significant role, Barrientos said.