In the above story ‘social integration’ was identified as the number one contributor to living to 100. But what does this mean?
Having friends around us, people to talk to regularly like store owners, gardeners, people in the street, are all uplifting.
The social interaction gives a structure today and mentally give us a sense of worth. At the same time these experiences work against us thinking too much about ourselves and the negatives of life.
We have a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging.
This is why I am a strong believer in the concept of retirement villages. They are ready-made communities where the population has time and the interest to talk to each other, interact and keep an eye out for each other.
As they say, laughter is the best medicine.
An extra five years of independence
Consider this fact. The average age across Australia of entry into aged care between 2002 and 2011 was 79 years. (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Patterns in Aged Care Program Use 2002 – 3 to 2010 – 11/Grant Thornton 2014).
For the same period the average age of entry into aged care for retirement village residents was 84 years.
It makes sense. Consider an older couple living in the suburbs, perhaps in a battle axe home built on a slope. They can no longer drive and the husband is housebound. The bus stop is 200 metres away.
How does the wife get to the shops, buy the groceries for the week and carry them home? She starts going out less, buying fewer items, mainly processed foods which are lighter.
Both their diets are damaged. And they withdraw into their home. Isolation and depression.
Retirement villages however are structured to support them in their ageing journey. Social interaction, day-to-day activities like shopping. The safe physical environment.
There is a cost to retirement villages but what value do you place on contentment compared to depression, and an extra five years of independent living?