The research I have been doing suggests that to age healthily we really need to have a purpose in life, something we are achieving, rather than just filling in time. A couple of my friends spend their time ‘being busy’ which is how a lot of older people describe their lives. If you ask press them further and ask what they actually do they say “I’m really busy”.
I was a member of a book club but got really frustrated by members who only seemed to turn up when they were in town and had nothing else to do although they didn’t admit this. Basically their membership was only part of their ‘busyness’, something they could use to fill in a bit of time when they happened to be free from other things. It meant that they were known only by their names and not who they were. They were unable to take any sort of role in the book club as they didn’t attend often enough so they freeloaded on the effort of others.
What happens to older people who fill their lives being busy as they age and then are no longer physically able to flit around either the country or overseas? Are they left with an empty life and possible loneliness? Is this lifestyle just a way of trying to run away from the process of ageing?
If the research is right that throughout our lives we need to be doing something, having a purpose, which defines who we are then what is happening to these people? As we live longer and more people enter this stage of life, and are in it longer, we really should be trying to find out what happens to people who are basically just filling in time. The problem is that people doing research into ageing tend to be younger people who think they know everything and don’t need to include older people in their work. This often means that when an older person reads their work they find it riddled with errors.
Filling in time just doing what you feel like doing without any purpose as you age could have unacceptable outcomes as we move further into the ageing process. We just don’t know. We really should be looking into this situation otherwise our ageing population will really become the problem some people already think it is.