In some cultures, older people are respected, revered even. In ours, not so much. Everywhere we go, we see images of young beautiful people, anti-ageing products, older people referred to as “dinosaurs” or as a burden. The little media coverage that older people do receive tends to focus on what’s difficult: loneliness, dementia, social care.
But maybe we could all do with listening to older people on how to be happy. The difficult issues are very real, but when you talk to people, most say that there are things about later life that make you happier. There’s something about learning what’s important to you and letting go of the silly things like status that brings a sense of contentment for many people.
Our friends at Outside the Box @OTBcommunities asked older people what keeps them happy as part of Mental Health Awareness Month this May. The answers they got were inspirational. Of course, it’s different for everyone, but the biggest theme seems to be “just keep going”. Keep connecting with people. Keep singing. Keep gardening. Keep dancing. Keep learning. We know that old age doesn’t come on its own, but whatever the limitations, there are creative ways to get round them. We spoke to Anne Connor from Outside the Box and their next project will be offering chair belly dancing in care homes. Amazing.
Here’s a couple of highlights. You can read all about the study at Outside the Box’s Wisdom in Practice website.
“My first happiness habit is definitely to keep dancing as long as I am mobile. I meet people in their 80s who are still dancing- it’s good for the memory, balance, motor skills, making the effort to get dressed up and go out in a social setting and talk to people, keeping the chemistry and physical closeness going in a partnership and for fun and laughter. All perfect ingredients in a happiness habits recipe!”
“Spending time with family and friends who love us and appreciate us so that there are plenty of good positive vibes of laughter and love surrounding us.”
“We have 220 members who get a lot of happiness from learning something new every day. You are never too old to learn.”
Aberdeen University of the Third Age