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Societies Characterised by a Healthy Old Age, Care about Family

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?
Small things

  • 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 . . .

Big things

  • 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.

Would you like to feel less stressed?
Could you do with more joy in your life?

The answer is living authentically. Buy the book or sign up for the course now from my Living Authentically website.

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.

If you would like me to write about some aspect of living an authentic life please don't hesitate to get in touch. There is a box in the sidebar where you can leave a question anonymously if you wish, or you can email me, use the contact page, or comment on this post.

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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Chris Edgar 2010/02/26, 4:56 pm

    Hi Evan — looking forward to the book — I imagine the factors that promote a healthy old age, like being close to family (heh, admittedly this one probably depends a bit on the individual family) can benefit us no matter where we are in life.

  • Farouk 2010/02/26, 6:38 pm

    i was just watching a famous psychiatrist on tv saying that the more most important thing that can prevent people from having bad mental and physical health is the friends support system they have
    thanks for the post

  • Evan 2010/02/26, 8:32 pm

    Hi Chris, yes wherever we are in life we can get healthier and enjoy our life more. And yes, it very much depends on the family. Some families are best left as soon as at all possible. I’ll keep updating on how the book is going. Thanks for your comment.

  • Evan 2010/02/26, 8:32 pm

    Hi Farouk, I think this is your first comment, so welcome. Glad you liked the post and thanks for dropping by.

  • Adelaide 2010/02/27, 12:44 pm

    It seems I have bookmarked 2knowmyself for more than six months now.

    Love the ideas for intentional communities (co-housing) and organising your life so you are interruptible.

  • Evan 2010/02/27, 3:15 pm

    It looks like a great site to me. Glad you liked the ideas and thanks for your comment.

  • isabella mori (@moritherapy) 2010/03/18, 11:33 pm

    this is a great topic! and immediately i thought of your other posts (which, i have to admit, i just glanced at without reading much of them) about introversion. how do introverts like you and i accomplish this? i honestly love and am fascinated by people but also need a lot of down and alone time. i seem to spend a lot of energy juggling the two. another situation that i’m probably not alone with is that my circles are very different. e.g. there are my blogging friends who don’t know my work friends who don’t interact much with my family etc. however, just having returned from europe to help my mother move into a seniors’ home i see once again how important friendship is. my parents have always cultivated friends and my 85-year-old mother is reaping the benefits. even though both of her daughters don’t live close by, she has many friends (and some very extended family members) almost falling over themselves wanting to help. that was heartwarming to see.

  • Evan 2010/03/19, 7:39 am

    Hi Isabella, it sounds like settling your mother in to her new living place went well. Great to hear.

    For me it is about spending more intense time with people – and eliminating the chit chat. I have mostly made friends from people working on the same project or having the same interests as me. Like you I think friendship is enormously important. I’m afraid I don’t have any answers about the juggling act. Thanks for your comment.

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