It is easier to find grumbles than smiles. More of the headlines about getting old tend to be negative. Issues about ill-health, limited finances and isolation dominate many discussions about ageing.
With this mood music, how long will it be before we talk ourselves into early graves? Some research from America suggests there is a way of turning grumbles into smiles.
The Institute for Ageing research in New York studied the attitudes of people who lived to 100 in an ethnic group of Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe. They found that they were cheerful, sociable and conscientious. They had a positive attitude to life and a large social network.
The researchers were tending toward the conclusion that there may be some genetic reason behind this. I think the explanation could be simpler and more obvious than that.
The people had a strong sense of community and a good social network, in which they could feel safe and secure. Many of these things are taken from older people in Western societies as families are evermore geographically dispersed and society becomes more fragmented.
Perhaps that is why retirement communities work well – they offer safety and security, as well as a new social network. It is also important to maintain links with family and friends in the local community, which is why retirement villages should be built in urban locations, not in some isolated rural idyll.
Hopefully a research study in thirty years’ time will find new communities full of smiles, living till they reach the ……………