When we set out to study old age, we are to some extent studying recent history. We are studying the way the currently old behaved in their youth and middle age. And this can be 20, 50 or even 70 or more years ago, if we are looking at the very old.
Things have changed a lot in the last 20 years, let alone 50 or 70. This is a problem, because we want to learn what we learn from studying old people (and the societies that encourage a healthy old age). The question is if we can apply what we learn in today’s world, which has changed so much from the world that the old people grew up in.
One part of our western culture that has changed dramatically is the place given to family. Partly due to the cost of housing (especially in Australia, where I’m from, where the real cost of housing is increasing dramatically) it is rare for an extended family to live within walking distance. It is now common for them to be scattered between cities.
Does this mean that we must have a shorter life or a less healthy one than the healthy old people studied? To change our culture back to valuing family is more than one person (or perhaps even many thousands) can do.
What can we do?
- Prioritise friendship. Think up ways to spend enjoyable times with friends. If you go for a walk by yourself each day, you could perhaps involve a friend once a week. Make a time in your diary once a week or once a month where you do something to develop a friendship (new or old).
- If you are thinking of moving to a retirement village check out the kinds of communal facilities they offer. These will make it easier to form clubs and spend time with others.
- See if there is a club you can join around your interests.
- If you are in a tradition of faith, see if you can find a group that you are comfortable with and that would welcome you.
All of which takes time and lifestyle adjustments, which leads us to . . .
- See if there is a way to work part-time and spend your time developing friendships and doing things you love.
- See if there is a co-housing scheme which you like and where you want to live.
- Is there a way to design your life so that you are interruptible? So that you can easily stop what you are doing to help a friend?
These are big things and could take consistent work over quite a while to achieve. However, a healthy old age is a big concern, and these changes can often be made in small steps. And each step can be an improvement and feel good – it doesn’t require ‘discipline’ to keep on with these changes, just enjoying ourselves and finding ways to enjoy ourselves more. This is pretty much the ideal kind of change.
If you liked this post you may also be interested in these posts on,
How people live in societies characterised by a healthy old age, and,
What we can learn from how people live in societies characterised by a healthy old age.
My next eBook is going to be about societies characterised by a healthy old age and how this applies to our health. It will be mixing the research about the healthy old with research about the simple things we can do to stay healthy.
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I'm Evan Hadkins. I'm Evan Hadkins. To find out how to live a more satisfying life you can download my manifesto on living authentically. It is a book of exercises to guide you to finding, nourishing and living from the core of who you are.
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