We all want to live well later in life. Currently care for the elderly is in crisis, and with an ageing population will come under even more pressure.
On a recent visit to Antibes in the South of France I chatted to an American lady who made some interesting observations about the elderly in France.
She and her husband were retired, and they were spending 3 months in Antibes, staying in a relatively modern apartment in the town. What amazed her was the number of ‘old’ people living independently in the building – far more than there would be in an equivalent building in the States.
She went on to say that she realised that a major difference was the overall french way of life.
Instead of being reliant on cars and shopping in supermarkets they walked daily to the small local shops and local market. They chatted to each other and the store and stall owners. There was a sense of community. It was a sociable and healthy way to live. She felt that this would be virtually impossible in her home town in America. Not being able to drive or tackle shopping in the large supermarkets , she felt, was a barrier to independent living. America’s love and reliance on the car, she felt, was to the detriment of an independent old age.
Is it the same here in the UK? Looking at where my own situation it would be virtually impossible without a car. There is no village food shop – the nearest supermarket is a few miles away – and no public transport. The village post office closed some years ago. Ordering groceries online would be an option, but would only heighten a sense of isolation and not encourage a daily walk and interaction with other local residents.
Living happily and independently in later life
Thinking about how we can all live happy, independent lives in later life is crucial. It is not just about the cost and funding of care homes, but about how we can live independently in our own homes and communities for as long as possible.
I can remember, as a child, staying with my grandmother in Wales. She didn’t drive. Every day we walked to the local shops. In addition, a greengrocer van came every other day stocked with essentials (and a few treats). I loved the novelty of going to choose ‘tea’ from a van. There was always a kind word, and he often popped in to share a cup of tea with my grandmother. None of my grandparents went in to care – and my grandfather lived to be 98. All lived independently in their own homes.
Perhaps a gentler, more personable way of life will help us all to live independent lives for longer . Life is about quality as well as quantity!
What are the solutions?