This week Malcolm Johnson, Professor of Gerontology and expert lead on Channel 4’s ‘Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds’, answers our questions on the process of ageing and talks about the part lifestyle factors play.
What is the process of ageing?
There isn’t really a process of ageing – ageing is made up of lots of dimensions. Physical ageing is primary for all of us. Our genetic inheritance is important, our experience of illnesses in early life may have influences on the length of our life, as well as the way our life unfolds as we age. Our occupation can certainly have an influence too.
Why do we live longer than in the past?
One of the reasons why, in western societies, we live a lot longer than people even 50 years ago is because our work is less hazardous. We don’t work in coal mines, factories or in places where there is danger. Ageing is a series of processes, but the physical basis of ageing is critical.
Are there any other factors?
The psychology of your life is clearly the other dimension, avoiding illness and relationships that are damaging. We know a lot more about the damage that follows us all through our lives – often unseen, often unrecognised – which makes the living of life difficult and often brings life to an earlier end than if these had not been part of our living.
Professor Malcolm Johnson, a professor of Health and Social Policy at the University of Bath since 1995, has written twelve books, including ‘Spiritual Dimensions of Ageing’, and over 160 chapters, articles and monographs.
The Professor has recently attracted the public’s attention as lead experimenter on Channel 4’s ‘Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds’, where pre-school children shared their classroom with older people in a Bristol retirement home.
Professor Malcolm Johnson is now supporting Guild Living to create an academic-led approach to support better ageing in later life.