We are back again with Professor Malcolm Johnson, professor of Gerontology and End of Life, to discuss ageing. This week we want to discover the secret to leading a long and happy life.
Can we slow down ageing?
We certainly can slow down ageing.
How do we do it?
By making sure our lives are interesting, engaged, valued, dignified and occupied. We think of retirement as a point in life when you stop doing work – a concept that was created by Bismarck, Chancellor of Germany, in the 19th century. He fixed the age at 65 and we have stuck with that. As a result, we tend to think that anyone over the age of 65 is ‘old’, which is now nonsense. Some people are old at 65 and some people never get old until almost at the end of their lives at the age of 90. It has nothing to do with your age.
So, what is the difference?
Slowing down ageing in retirement is about having continued interest in your life, having continued opportunity to make every day worth living. Getting up in the morning, having things to do, things to think about, people to see, activity, engagement, viewing the world, seeing people – that’s what we have earlier in life when we do something that is called ‘going to work’.
What if we don’t enjoy our work?
Not everyone’s work is fun, but it does have certain characteristics. It has routine, it has purpose, it has people. It even gives the opportunity to grumble and complain about people, about work, about time schedules, the way people think and speak. When we stop being at work, all that stops. Extending our working lives into the period beyond retirement, and continuing these engaging things, is what enables us to slow down ageing.
Continuing to do those things that matter to us – meeting people, eating interesting food, going to interesting places, being connected to the world – can all help. Because retirement is now a longer period of time, that is the not very ‘secret’ secret way of slowing down ageing.
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.
The professor is now supporting Guild Living to create an academic-led approach to support better ageing in later life.