Ageing involves change, both positive and negative. It doesn’t automatically mean that one will have a poor quality of life or a whole bunch of medical problems. What does it mean when Baby Boomers hear the term “happy ageing”? Episode 33 of Booms Day Prepping will answer this question.
Wayne Bucklar: Welcome to the Baby Boomers’ podcast. It’s Booms Day Prepping. It’s time where we once again get together, our panel of Baby Boomers, and we have a look at the topics that interest us, the Boomers. And we’re joined as always by our resident gerontologist Dr. Drew Dwyer and our regular panel – Amanda Lambros, Bron Williams, Brian Hinselwood and Glenn Capelli. My name is Wayne Bucklar and today our topic is “Happy Ageing.” What does that mean? Drew, what does that mean?
Dr. Drew Dwyer: Okay. Hi everybody! Great topic today. You’ll hear a lot of this language being spread and marketed and I suppose it sits in a language space now of happy ageing, positive ageing and making aged care or ageing more acceptable, removing the stereotypes and the stigmas around ageing and trying to make society less ageist which in a general view, society is very ageist. So we look at the elderly in a very negative way for a number of reasons, which I’m sure will come out during today’s podcast. But primarily, the term “Happy Ageing” has been focused on within the international space for gerontology primarily built around a research project that came out of the International Year of the Elderly when it was put up by the UN and it’s about, as I said, de-stigmatizing older people, de-stigmatizing how retirees and older people live and of course, this is a massive economic and policy debate, believe it or not. So there’s a lot of policy and economics policy that sits behind this because the ageing population, as it Baby Booms or booms up and gets bigger in its cohort, it’s having a large impact globally on many nations – their policies, their economic and society-building. So the governments got together and said, “Well how are we going to de-stigmatize this?” So a group of researchers approach the gerontological space and said, “We’re going to start a happy ageing project.” Now it started in about 2008 and that project was a research across four or five nations to have a look specifically at developing a happy ageing system – what makes elderly people or seniors integrated more happily in their retirement years? And so the research and development of this has been ongoing. They keep collecting data from it and from that knowledge, they then build further programs that are centered around happy ageing. So the acceptance of the happy ageing or healthy ageing and positive ageing, where all of this comes out of, is a system that’s promoted from an adherence of using person-centered designed paradigm. So it’s about focusing on the person, what makes them happy and so forth. So for the listeners, if you go through further about happy ageing, you clearly understand that understanding the factors that determined what makes retirees happy, it segregates out. And so it segregates out primarily and we must understand the facts of the research that what makes people happy in retirement is two things. One is wealth and being financially positioned to be able to retire, which in an economic wealthy space, which makes a person or an individual happier or more complacent and of course, the other one is income. And I know people might think income and wealth are the same thing, but they are not. So income is of course, income where you draw your income from in retirement, which is a contribution towards being happier as you get older or happier that you’re making income. The wealth actually then breaks down into well-being for individuals, what makes them happy, the welfare of making people happy and the research then develops itself very heavily here. So economic literature sits around finance factors that sit around pensions, superannuations, very easy stuff to pull apart and understand. But the majority of the research that’s undertaken with what makes retirees and elderly people happy actually sits in the space of looking and understanding wellness, happiness and happy ageing. So I put it to the panel, what’s your personal thoughts as Boomers and people who work with Boomers? What is happy ageing to you and can you constitute a happy aging space now that I’ve clarified we have to include wealth and economics, but the well-being of happiness? So what does happy ageing mean to you? And we’ll go after our eldest Baby Boomer on the planet, Brian.
Brian Hinselwood: Thank you for that Drew. Look, I’m a bit confused by this I have to say. I can’t understand how happiness in ageing is any different or marginally different than happiness in the teenage years, or your 20s, or your 50s or whatever. I think happiness obviously comes from the individual and I think if whatever you’re doing is making you happy, yes of course, generally speaking you need money, you need to go put food on the table, a roof over your head, things like that, and so you need money, you need some income, albeit a pittance of a pension. And so I think happiness is more an individual thing than I don’t think governments can legislate happiness. I could be wrong and I’m quite happy for you all to say, “Oh no Brian, they can do this and they can do that.” But I doubt it very much that any government can legislate happiness.
Dr. Drew: Yes. To answer that Brian, to clarify your confusion is understand that the government is not trying to legislate happiness, it’s trying to legislate how we build a society or change things in society, particularly in Australia through the 3 levels of government – so federally, state and then local community. I believe much of it sits around local government to be able to produce things that help or assist people to be happy. So what we look at is “Biomedical Theory.” Biomedical theory largely sits in optimism, life expectancy, minimizing mental deterioration, disability and chronic disease. But the division of people into deceased in normal or abnormal spaces fails to recognize large heterogeneity so it puts people in groups to overcome it. And really, there’s a common denominator amongst all human beings and that’s usual ageing normal decline because we’re human beings. And what is successful ageing that ameliorates or makes better their lifestyles? So if I go to government legislation, I think the focus should be more and centered around how do people get to the bank? How do they get on transport? How do they get around their communities? How do they enter, and integrate, and mingle and not isolate? From a federal state government, it’s more or less, I think, about public transport. Funding federal government, it’s about pensions and supplying economics. But when we look at a happy theory mechanism that constitutes life expectancy, life satisfaction, mental and psychological health, personal growth and of course physical health and then social economical networks and associations. So I agree, I don’t think the government can legislate those things but I think the government can change some of the legislations that block older people from still enjoying or making their lives happy. Primarily, I think, this whole thing’s designed around culture and how we need to remove ageism because I think generally, society is quite ageist. I want to ask Bronwyn her thought on all of this.
Bron Williams: I have been sitting here, listening and thinking. My mum has just come out of hospital. She’s 93, it’s her third visit since halfway through December last year. She’s come home to a new ramp that has been installed at the front of her house. She is very happy because now she can get in and out of the house using her walker, which was before she had not been able to. Happy ageing. So while I take Brian’s point that I think uniquely, what makes us happy when we’re 30 and what makes us happy when we’re 70 are pretty much the same things. However, I don’t care for a ramp at the front of my house – that would not make me happy. However, it makes my mum very happy because it feeds into what you we’re saying Drew about the ability to get around and do the things that you want to do. And certainly things like public transport, access for wheelchairs, those sorts of things and although I’m not in that situation, I don’t know what the future will hold, I’m fit and healthy now in my 60s and I’m anticipating that that will be the way for probably the next 25 to 30 years. But there will come a time when, like my mum, having a ramp at the front of my house is going to be one of the big yeses.
Dr. Drew: Yes, and I’ll add it to that lay definition. So let’s add some words like accomplishment, enjoyment of diet, financial security, neighborhood, productivity, sense of humor, sense of purpose and of course the favorite subject of this panel we’re going to have a talk very soon in a few panels, spirituality. But understand and reflect on yourselves, yes we’re fit, we’re healthy Boomers, older Boomers, whatever. I can guarantee you guys at one point, one cold, one flu, one medication change, one fall, one break – your life as an older person dramatically will change. And then all of a sudden, our community or your community where you felt empowered by has just disempowered you because people need to understand when we work in disability for example, the space and the social research around people with disability (PWD), enabling people or giving services to people with disability enables them to remain independent to be happy and doing their thing. In a disability space, we actually place handicap on individuals in our society when we can’t supply them an elevator, a ramp, a wider footpath, a public service, a specific cab system for people with disabilities. So this is about handicap and disability and what we do and take and give to people, our society that generally makes them happy. Wayne, give us some language and thought and some music thoughts on this.
Wayne: Well I’m a big supporter of Stephen Fry. And Stephen Fry said, “Beyond the gluttony,” and by gluttony, he meant both food and sex, “Beyond gluttony, all pleasure is in conversation.” And I take it for granted that we need the sorts of things you’re talking about Drew in terms of community services to get around and mobility and so on and so forth. But my big fear of being unhappy is not about, “Can I walk up and down the stairs?” Because I can fix that pretty readily. My big concern is not having conversations, not being intellectually challenged, not being able to share my fabulous sense of humor with people.
Dr. Drew: So connections Wayne?
Wayne: Connections and I’m a technology person and I see technology servicing that, but having the capacity to give someone a call is one thing. Having someone to call on the other end is the second thing. So those connections and relationships, those people to have a talk to I think are critically important to happiness.
Dr. Drew: Okay. Glenn?
Glenn Capelli: There’s no formula to happiness. The great term poet G Wayne Thomas from the greatest surf movie of all time and I see Amanda you’ve got a surf poster in the back there. Morning at the earth – There’s no formula for happiness that’s guaranteed to work, it all depends on how you treat your friends and how much you’ve been hurt. But it’s a start when you open up your heart and try not to hide what you feel inside. So we do need local, state, federal governments enabling people to be able to find their way to be able to do what they love to do. Some of what you are saying very much is a first-world thing, but we might be able to learn from other worlds. In my travels in India, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful experience – India. It’s got heartbreak, it’s got excitement, it’s got everything. And the full chief philosophy I learnt there and it may be it’s something that’s come from all over the world, “Have something to do, have someone to love and something to look forward to.” Something to love, something to look forward to. With my folks as they’ve got older, we would just say, “Listen, in 6 weeks time, we’re going to do a little day trip to Bunbury. In 6 months time, we’re planning a week in Esperance.” And that would be enough just to keep them going. Something to look forward to and they knew that in that something look forward to, that they would be with people. So I’m with Wayne, if you’ve got people to have good conversations with and I think Brian mentioned you a pittance of money sometimes can make you happy, just you’re borderline of that wealth. But the well of wealth and wellness might come from just having something to do that’s decent, where you’re making a bit of a contribution, someone to love, someone to love you and something to look forward to if there is a formula, even though G Wayne Thomas says there is no formula, but it’s a start when you open up your heart for those things.
Dr. Drew: Yes, I agree Glenn. As you know, the panel and everyone, I travel a fair bit, I go to third world countries, I work specifically, Thailand and Asia are my particularly favorite places in our backyard. But I’ve only recently come back from a place in Thailand looking at ageing and looking at a few things and summing up the difference between what we call the “Sun Worshippers” in Thailand – the Europeans that come to retire in their old age out of the ice and snow and into the sun. But then I sit and have conversations with the elderly Thais. Now in Thailand, they have a specific verse or term. When you ask them about happiness, when you ask them about happy ageing, they have a response that says, “Dai lai khun”. “Dai-lai-khun” means “It’s up to you.” So they don’t have a measurement and they don’t have, like you say, a remedy or a recipe or a standard. Their simple answer is, “Well that’s entirely up to you.” Whatever is going to make you happy is what makes you happy. But they do understand if you’re unhappy, then you have the ability to fix being unhappy and that’s up to you. So they use “Dai lai khun” quite a fair bit. But I agree Glenn, it’s a first-world issue when you read the surveys in the happy ageing programs and the elderly independent living framework, the definition of how it sits, protocols and questionnaires are quite first-world orientated. So apart from those side effects, I believe that happy ageing for me as a gerontologist, is “Dai lai khun.” It’s up to the individual. I think we should remain focused in the person-centered space and I think we, as individuals and Boomers need to have good connections with therapists who understand this and who counselors like Amanda, I’m going there in a minute, counselors like Amanda who they can work with, they’re able to have conversations and mapping so that they can work out what makes them happy and how do we achieve that goal. What’s important for them, what’s important to them and how do we construct goals, and services or mechanisms to reach happiness in your ageing space. Amanda?
Amanda Lambros: So as a counselor, we know that there’s life transitions. So there’s certain transitions that people go through and what brings them happiness or what they feel brings them happiness in each one of those is usually vastly different. So you tend to have an underlying current that goes along your entire life of like one nice thing that you’re like, “Okay, that’s the thing that’s for me,” and that’s usually the thing you need to hold on to. So I know for me it’s social connections. So my health could be horrible, I could live in a crappy house, but if I’ve got my social connections, I’m doing pretty good, I’m pretty happy. So I think what people need to understand is, what is that underlying current for you as you’re aging that’s going to help you happily age? That you kind of know, “I need that. That’s my need.” And it’s really great because as much as you said the “Dai lai khun,” the it’s up to you, I think it’s up to you as long as there’s also help from the government because when you’re aging, obviously lots of transitions, so they might be out of work, they might be retired, they not might not have the same income that they had previously and so something as simple as putting a ramp in like Bron’s mom had done probably cost money. And if the government can’t support you and you don’t have the money yourself, well then all of a sudden, you go from having the freedom and independence of something as simple as 40 pieces of wood in front of your house to being stuck in your house because you actually can’t get out.
Dr. Drew: Yes. And the thing I love about the Thais, if they can’t get it from their government, they’ll build it out of bamboo.
Amanda: How great is that, hey? Resilience.
Dr. Drew: Resilience. So I’m going to add a little four section discussion here. There are four areas in the social or the focus groups around happy ageing globally. I’ll read them out and I’ll ask a question on each one. The first area is “General Impression” – so the useful general impression around care, care-giving, burden and stress on family and the general impression of older people and how they age. The second focus group is “Welfare Systems” that you’re talking about Amanda, reimbursement, mechanisms and spending capacity of people in government. Third area is “Technology and Acceptance” which is something Wayne raised. And of course then there’s the final area of “Ethical Issue.” So I’m going to go backwards and let’s look at ethical issue. I ask all of you to make a comment. I’ll give mine first. The ethical issue that sits around happy ageing for me, it’s the ethics and the ethical issue of respecting people’s things like choice, privacy, and decision-making, and their culture and the way of being for that person. For me, it’s a massive ethical issue for the elderly and it’s a focus group that needs to be remained. People who are older and require their choice, their decision-making, their privacy and their culture and their lifestyles need to be maintained as an ethics. What’s yours Brian?
Brian: Well, see, again, I’ll go back to what I said originally. I can’t see why that particular concern, that particular thing is any different for an older person than it is for a younger person. Everybody needs their privacy, everybody at some stage might need help from government departments. I can’t see why we’re magnifying, if you will, apart from that’s what we do. But I can’t see why we’re magnifying older people. Everybody needs this same stuff.
Dr. Drew: Yes, of course, and I could answer that Brian because as you get older, I can tell you statistics are very prevalent older people have these rights removed from them. They become vulnerable and they get removed because they’re old.
Brian: So what do they actually get removed from?
Dr. Drew: Well their power of attorney, their privacy issues, their choice and decision-making, so that’s just ethical. Let’s sit in ethical, what are the ethical issues for you that would constitute a happy ageing space? What ethics would you like protected and looked at?
Brian: Yes look, if somebody is losing their mental capacity, then somebody needs to step in and as you say, have power of attorney and even if they’re not losing their mental capacity. Can I just go give a little side way? We have a young chap who’s just moved in next door. He’s 29, he is a fully qualified electrician. He went out with some mates several months ago now, climbed the tree, 12 meters up in the air, fell out, broke his back, he’s in a wheelchair. He’s only been out of hospital three weeks. He’s living next door to me in a double storey house that has no lift, no ramps, no whatever. I’m sure he’s managing with great difficulty, but the council is not going to come in or the government is not going to come in and put a lift in – they’re not. They’re going to say “Jim, move into a house that’s on one level.” So it happens to everybody. It’s happened to this guy, I mean, one night, we’ve all done it, but certainly, I had been so drunk that I actually can’t remember what we did last night but for the grace of God, I didn’t fall out of a tree or get hit by a bus or whatever.
Dr. Drew: Did you think Brian that ethical issues are constitute in making older people happy?
Brian: Look, I think there’s enough information out there. I live in Brisbane. We are constantly, probably once a month, getting different notifications from the City Council of things for older people to be involved in. So they’re trying as much as they can and obviously you can’t force people to go to learn about computers, or learn whatever, acting or whatever. But they’re trying as much as they can and I don’t think, as I said before, that legislating something is going to necessarily make it any easier or indeed, any more difficult.
Dr. Drew: Okay. Glenn, do you think ethical issues are important to making elder people happy?
Glenn: I certainly think if we’ve got a society that is based on empathy and if we’ve creating some things in our society that stop us being empathetic, then we need to address that. Part of the flow, part of happiness and Brian is right, it’s at any age in our life when you look at it, that part of the flow, an essence in the research, 40 years of research Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, one of the key factors of being in flow is to have autonomy, to believe you’ve got some sort of a sense of control, some sort of a sense where you can have an impact. And if we create the environments and sometimes out of supposedly pseudo care, create environments that takes away people’s ability to stand on their own feet, climb trees and fall out of them, to then find a way to pick yourself up again mentally if not physically. But if we take that away from people as they age, then we take away one of the essences of happiness. As best as we can whilst we can, we’ve got to feel that we’ve got some sort of a sense of control and our opinion matters, our sense of being matters and that we’ve got a call and what we say can have an impact. If we take that away from people, then we stop being that society of empathy.
Dr. Drew: I agree. And that’s one of the ethical issues that I raised earlier. I’ll put this in a space for the listeners who do listen to it, let’s refer this to say something like dementia as you get older, very prevalent, high on the risk scale for many elderly people. I deal with a lot of nursing care planning in the aged care space where all of a sudden, I see people’s choices and decisions being taken away because they’re old and they have a diagnosis of dementia. And I very quickly jump in with a proper clinical focus and assessment for these other people in the care partnership to have them focus, “Look, Polly may have lost her memory and doesn’t remember her husband or her family at the moment or where she’s at, but Polly knows herself. She knows what’s right and wrong and she still has some control over some of her decisions. She doesn’t lose all of her decision-making because some of her capacity is lost.” And this is confusing for people. But I can assure you, when we change the care plan, we get some of her ethical issues and her capacity and we have empathy for her as an individual person to control parts of her life. She becomes much more responsive, much more better to deal with and to work with and to live with when she has that control. So it is an empathy issue Glenn, you’re correct that ethical issue is that focused, person-centeredness is that her control, her privacy, her issue, her want to control is extremely important to making her happy. Her memory actually doesn’t matter at all. Bron?
Bron: Yes, look I agree and I’m going to go back to my mom because I have learnt so much in the last 6 to 8 months of just walking my mother’s sort of very ageing journey with her. So she’s been in hospital three times. For the first two I was there. When she came out, when she was discharged, I brought her home from hospital. This time I have not been. And when I spoke with mum yesterday, she said she’d been apprehensive about coming home on her own, but she was able to do it and she was fortuitous. There were people who just had happened to be there and were able to open the door and things like that. And as I talk to my daughter-in-law about this, I got the sense that she was concerned that mum was going home on her own. But that’s what my mum wants to do and these are the things that sit in the space of ethics that you’re talking about Drew. My mum wants to be independent. She wants to live on her own and I have to let her do that, that’s been one of the biggest learning experiences for me, is to let her do this and to not to take that away from her because she is so mentally in the space.
Dr. Drew: And Bron, let’s clarify for the listeners, you’re also 62 being a Baby Boomer and you’ve got older parents that you’re having this journey with. And at some point down the line Bron, this is going to be you with your own children.
Bron: That’s right and so I suppose I am trying to learn from my mother’s experience so that I see her independence and I know what her independence actually costs her children in terms of our concern for her.
Dr. Drew: Your emotional intelligence.
Bron: Yes and which my mother doesn’t have. As many of her generation don’t have. They don’t have that same level of self-awareness. So I am starting to think about how do I balance my need to be independent and to be in control, which is what my mum is doing with the fact that my decisions will impact my son.
Dr. Drew: And really, what your mum is doing is just making herself happy.
Bron: She is indeed, totally.
Dr. Drew: Okay. Amanda, ethical issues in making yourself happy ageing?
Amanda: I think there’s a lot of ethical issues, but I see it from when you were mentioning those four areas, I see all four of those areas overlapping and that’s going to cause the biggest ethical issue because like if someone can maintain their own stuff and it’s great when you have family or friends or someone around that you can reach out to and ask for help if you’re willing to ask for help. And we know there’s lots of people out there who are not willing to ask for help because they’ve done it on their own all their life and they can continue to do it on their own and that part kind of scares me a bit.
Dr. Drew: And with that Amanda, I hate to interfere but I do love it. I have many families I deal with that say to me, “But that can’t be right. But you’re not listening to your mum. She’s happy to keep doing it on her own, she’s happy to what you perceive as a struggling person, she sees as her normal happy space.” Struggling is a part of her happiness.
Amanda: And someone has to really like especially if it’s the kids for example, they have to take a step back and actually realize that and be okay with that. I think when it comes to, like if we intermingle the whole governance thing in the governments, is there’s a lot of ethics around that and obviously in a political realm, you have to actually be thinking about like where’s the money coming from, who is it going to go to, where is the balance of this person is more deserving than that person and all that kind of stuff. So it becomes a huge ethical debate as to where money is coming from. And then with things like tech and acceptance, so again like that intertwining of those four different areas, where are they getting the tech from? Who’s going to install it? Is the tech going to help or hinder? So every aspect of ethics that we’re looking at really has to be, “Is this here to help or hinder the person to continue to be happy as they’re aging?”
Dr. Drew: And of course, as the scientists are evolved and unwrapped the research and the science and I’m more as a factor of evidence-based science needs to be challenged continuously. It is about really coming down to that person-centered focus. What is it that makes individuals as they age happy? That’s where we need to discover more of the science because I think it’s extremely diverse and different for individuals. And I’m with Wayne, the more technology evolves in the Baby Boomer space, the more Baby Boomers have to be aware of how technology is going to, in a social context, affect their happy ageing. Wayne?
Wayne: Yes, the technology is never going to stop. I’m a technologically determinist so I believe that technology shapes our society not the other way around. We’re not very good at choosing not to use technology. And so we’re increasingly going to see the dilemma between invasive technology and technology you choose to use. So technology right now is wonderful, we can sit on our laptops as we’re doing today and the 6 or 8 of us can have a chat around the world and it’s very cost-effective. How do we feel, however, that screen is mounted in our house and that allows a government carer to surveil us 24 hours a day to see if we fall over. The ethical dilemma for me is, where is the balance between the convenience of care and the convenience of the individual’s rights? So when someone says, “I want to stay at home,” even if that means I run the risk of falling over and not being able to get up and maybe dying, versus the welfare workers saying, “Oh no dear, you’re clearly not in the right head if you think that. You must get into the care facilities.” That for me is the ethical dilemma is where do you sacrifice the rights of the individual to choose their own risks, versus the right of society to manage people economically in the way that they think works best?
Dr. Drew: Yes, I mean, these are great huge topics of discussion because as our Baby Boomer cohort gets more prevalent as in people said to me, “Drew, why do you keep saying this?” Not that this is getting more of them is it as the timeline stands out, more people come into an ageing and ageing timeframe. So we get more elderly, which across a whole cohort are actually Baby Boomers per se coming forward and ageing into their age cohort. But at the end of the day, the language we use around happy ageing now extends to positive ageing, healthy ageing and so forth. But I want to keep the subject in happy ageing and that is what we’ve been discussing. What makes individuals as they age happy and how do we focus on keeping a happy ageing content? And I think what we’ve discovered in this conversation is individuals have different concepts of it and I think as I said, I think it’s about finding out the person-centeredness of that individual and what makes them happy. So I’m going to ask Glenn. When we think about music, I find music is always a key instrument in keeping older people in a happy space and using it as a therapeutic approach because they have a very strong connection, human beings, with music. Music has an algorithm and a vibration, of course. But music I find brings reminiscence, brings thought, brings laughter, brings love, brings ethics, brings a whole lot to a person. And I have many, many older patients, and people and clients I deal with where we can solve so many of their issues simply by putting more music and more entertainment around them and they just thrive in it. What’s your thoughts as a music person and language Glenn?
Glenn: Certainly, I love that phrase “person-centered design.” Sadly, it becomes easier to do group stuff rather than personal-centered, but the main thing is that technology gets more to develop, we’re able to do the person-centered. So any grand statements always have got contradictions within them. There are some people who don’t respond to music. Oliver Sacks writes about it as small minute percentage of the population actually music makes them ill that the vibrations in their ear create this sort of like a seasickness to them. But for the majority of human beings, there are different types of music and different ways of using music. So there’s music in terms of its rhythm and its flow and so I only need to hear a big band sound and a bit of swing and because of my dad raising us on Duke Ellington and Count Basie, Bang! I got the rhythm. As soon as Amanda was talking about we need to step back, I was hearing Johnny Young singing “Step back a little.” So some people respond musically philosophically and we’ve got to almost listen for the words in music too because sometimes they can be a really happy, happy sort of song and yet we’re singing along to “I can’t smile without you, I feel sad when you’re sad, I feel down when you’re down.” They’re not empowering lyric. So look at how rhythm affects, how memory affects, the message of the music.
Dr. Drew: I love that Glenn. I’m an Irish descendant background bloodline and I had my DNA done which is 90% Irish so it makes me laugh. The Irish write fantastic, vigorous, happy, loud songs about war and battle and they write really horrible, sad, crying, woeful songs about love.
Glenn: Let’s go to Rodgers and Hammerstein perhaps and happy talk. So I’m not sure that there’s any great happy talk songs in Ireland but I listened to The Fureys and I’m feeling happy.
Dr. Drew: Very good friends of mine.
Glenn: They might be singing about, “You’re lucky like I loved you when you were sweet sixteen” and it could bring a tear over your eye, but it brings a beat to my heart. So yes, you look at music as a therapeutic thing in a variety of ways – the rhythm of it, the sound of it, the tempo of it. So sometimes it can be heavy metal with a heavy beat that gets us up and moving. We can look for the lyrics and what we can learn from that philosophically. Indigenous populations all around the planet never underutilized music. Music, movement are keys to happiness.
Dr. Drew: Alright. So my next question for everybody will sit around because when you look at the research on happy ageing, much of the focus splits to the left or to the right or to the good and to the bad if you would like, keeping the politics out of it. But some of the focus is on the association between isolation loneliness has two different measures of the subject of well-being. So what is the panel’s thought on isolation loneliness or isolation happiness when it comes to ageing because I know many many older people that are self-isolating and quite happy to do so and want to remain there. I look at my father-in-law and particularly he’s happy to be isolated and away from people because he can’t stand them so it’s going to make him happy ageing. What’s your thought Brian on the issue of happy ageing and isolation and loneliness against isolation and happiness, do you think it has a measurement?
Brian: Yes, I do. I find it extraordinary when you’re talking about your father-in-law that chooses to be isolated. I have to say I have trouble getting my head around that, I can’t imagine anything worst. Having time on your own for an hour, a couple of hours or even a day is fine, but to want to do that on a more or less permanent basis is just to me bizarre. I can’t imagine a time and I don’t want to try and imagine a time when, as Wayne mentioned earlier, I haven’t got friends or acquaintances or family or whoever to talk to and argue with them and enjoy music with. I find it strange that there are people out there somewhere that choose to be on their own.
Dr. Drew: Yes and yet that’s the thing, it makes them happy and it really challenges other people. And I think Glenn brought it up or Wayne, it might have been Glenn, that the institutionalized welfare people, the people in the system, they don’t like seeing this at all.
Wayne: My mother has been wheelchair-bound for a number of years and is in a nursing home and from time to time, she would like to be left alone in her room by herself to contemplate the world, to have a nap, to do whatever. But the system says, “Get up in the morning, we’re going to roll you out into the community room and you’re going to be cheerful and talk to all your colleagues.” It is that loss of independence which is the problem and that sacrifice of the individual rights to suit the institutional needs. And even simple things, when she became wheelchair-bound they took her clothes and split them all down the back and put a couple of tapes in the back because it’s much easier to change the clothes of someone in a bed if you can split them from the back. The consequence of this is that in being moved around, walked around, put into a wheelchair, you have your back and often your bum hanging out and for a woman in her 90s, this is a humiliation that she can well do without.
Dr. Drew: And a big draft at the back.
Wayne: Yes. Now she was a nurse for many years and she has a good understanding of institutional needs and a lot of emotional intelligence, so it’s okay. But were it me in that position, I’m not so sure I would be that okay.
Dr. Drew: Amanda, your concept or thought around the presenting analysis, we’re having a discussion around isolation, the association between isolation and loneliness or isolation and happiness as you age?
Amanda: I had already said that in order for me to go forward and be happy, I really need that connection, I really need social connection. So I understand how people would like to isolate and are totally happy with that. It would not work for me at all. I could not find a way to isolate and be happy, I would have to actually be interactive with other people, even if I get put in a retirement home or a nursing home, it’s like “Get me out to that little social area so that I can just be with other people.”
Dr. Drew: I’m a bit bipolic myself. I could do with a month of being on my own as a sabbatical and then immediately I’d want to get into a bar and have some fun, and sing and dance. Bron?
Bron: I’m probably a bit more like you Drew. I really sit in that space between extroversion and introversion. I love my own company, more than happy to sit in my own head space but certainly love to be connected with other people. And one of the challenges that I’ve had to learn in which my sister who works in the aged care space has helped me understand with mum is that mum is no more unsafe in her own home. She has a fall in her own home, she’s got her mini alert thing and she seem to. So she still gets to choose and if she fell, if she was in a nursing home, it might take people a while to find her anyway.
Dr. Drew: Yes, well that sits around risk avoidance for many people who work with the elderly. They’re very risk avoidance whereas, I’m very pro risk-taking providing that we understand that this person wants to make that risk and let them make that risk.
Bron: That’s right. And that’s what I’ve had to come to terms with for myself because obviously, I want my mum to be safe. But her being able to take this calculated risk of living at home on her own with the potential that she will fall and have to wait for an ambulance and all of those things, her happiness, it keeps her happy, she feels in control. If she wants to get out, she does, she gets a taxi, she brings a friend, but she spends a lot of time on her own. She’s living her life the way that she does and I am very happy now for her to do that and I just have to wear my own responses when things that are negative happen to her.
Dr. Drew: Before I move to Glenn, I think I’d like to see, I don’t know if anyone’s been into the shops lately and there’s a little electronic panel with four colored buttons of smiley, sad faces and you meant to hit a button and tell the shop how your experience was. Was your experience sad, happy. I would love to see these in nursing homes, retirement villages or around the elderly so that at some point in the day, they could hit one of those buttons and tell your sad day or happy day and then it would prompt us to ask, “Why?” so that we can ask that question. But anyway Glenn, your thoughts on the association between isolation and loneliness or isolation and happiness as a well-being of happy ageing and the two measures we can look at?
Glenn: A story of the turtles, happy together or not happy together. But Jack and Joan, my mum and dad, I mean dad, as he got older, loved to stay indoors or just stay around the home and love people to come and visit, have a conversation with him in the sunny room over a cup of tea or a beer. But Joan my mum and mum did spend some years of her life as an actual bipolar, but she would be up or she’d be down and in later in life, she only had the real up. And so she loved an audience, she loved the crowd, but she couldn’t drive the car. So dad would be the one who could take her to social environments. So mum, the less that she saw people, the more that it took her out, suddenly, she would be out of the car before the car had even stopped and she would be corralling people, she would be, “Look at me, look at me, look at me.” She’d be doing a dance, she’d be singing a song. It’s amazing how many people just went along with it and smiled and were gracious and some of them I’m sure they felt like slapping her but they didn’t, thankfully.
Dr. Drew: Boxing her and calming her down.
Glenn: Yes, it’s just a really interesting thing. So what happens when you’ve got a couple where one leans more to “I want some quieter time” and the other’s like, “No, no, forget the quiet time, I want a party and I want a constant party,” and how we as a family were able to do that, the strategies employed so mum could have the shining light and dad could have the gentle time. It was quite interesting and a challenge and it would be a different blueprint for different families and different ways about it. I’d say that we talked of extroverts and introverts so much and let me say it again when we came up with the phrases in psychology for extroverts and introverts, they also came up with the word that describes most human beings was “ambivert.” We’re a little bit of both and we need a little bit of both and sometimes we need to rise up a bit and sometimes fall back a bit. More human beings are ambiverted, than only extremes of extrovert or introverts so it’s actually, that’s the sweetest part in many ways.
Dr. Drew: Yes. I think they’re the qualities that make us human. Now I reflect just quickly before we move into a closing space, but I used to look after a lady who’s now passed away. Her name was Grace and her life journey that I discovered by building her life book, something that counselors or gerontologists do a lot. She had a hard life, terrible life, terrible husband, terrible, very, very unappreciated depressed woman her whole life. She was given a terminal diagnosis, had to move into a nursing home and I can tell you Grace from that point forward, her husband left her, her whole life fell apart. She made a very clear conscience decision that she was going to spend the rest of her days in the happiest space that she could ever want to create for herself, even though she was in a nursing home. So everyday, we had to dress Grace, we had to put her in the clothes she wanted to wear, we had to listen to her explicit demands, feather boas, crystal caps, crowns, everything that she was not allowed to do in her life she made sure she fulfilled in her late stage into death. And I often reflect on Grace because she used to clearly tell me, “This is my journey and my choice and no one’s holding me back and I’m going to do what makes me happy.” I would suggest you support that. And that’s what she used say to me everyday to go, “Right there Grace, what are we doing today?” She’d tell me the mood she was in, the clothes and colors that reflected her and what she had planned for her day.
Brian: I think if you get to that stage of life Drew and you can make those decisions and make them work, that’s excellent. I think that’s brilliant.
Glenn: I think “Amazing Grace” needs to be one of the tunes on our jukebox for this one, that is “Amazing Grace.” If we can all follow Grace, that’s good.
Dr. Drew: Yes, it would be lovely. She was a character and I have to tell you I don’t know how she lived the life she did oppressed like her story tells, but she came out of that shell very quickly and lived an extraordinary couple of years in care until she finally passed away. I think we’re getting close to the end and let’s sum up by looking, I think, at everyone’s aspect of what is happy ageing? What does it mean? That was our original question. So I’ll push it across and I’ll go to Brian first at least and I mean Brian doesn’t get it and we do get Brian that doesn’t get it. But from his feelings point of view, Brian have you at least got a bit of grasp on happy ageing and what does that mean?
Brian: I think as I said kind of at the beginning, I think happy ageing is the same as happy in any other stage of life, is being contented with yourself. Hopefully, being surrounded by good friends and family and whatever, particularly friends, because you get to choose them obviously as opposed to your personal family that you’ve been born into or whatever or created. And I think being happy, just being content with yourself. As long as you feel you’re contributing something to your life, that to me kind of sums it up really, just being content with yourself and the people surrounding you.
Dr. Drew: Amanda?
Amanda: I think one of the things with regard to happy aging is to really be comfortable with what your undercurrents of happiness are and then be really sure in those so that when other people attempt to sway you from what makes you happy, you can actually firmly stand your ground and say, “Nope, this is what I need and this is how I’m going to be happy getting old.”
Dr. Drew: Bron?
Bron: As a firm believer in emotional intelligence, I think part of happy ageing is being able to own how you’re feeling and being happy to sit with that. And as you were talking earlier Drew about having those buttons that we can punch in at the grocery or shop, maybe we also need the “F Off Button.”
Dr. Drew: Yes, I love the F off button, therer should be more of that button.
Bron: Because I think sometimes we forget that older people really just want the world to go away. They want to sit in their own head space. They don’t want to be bothered because they’re perfectly happy being where they are, but we don’t like to see them telling us to “f off” in their own way. So I think that whole emotional intelligence of saying, “Today, I just feel grumpy, I want you to go away and leave me alone,” that is perfectly okay.
Dr. Drew: Well I could tell you Bron, one of my favorite things of nursing and particularly as a male nurse, been nursing the elderly most of my career – washing, bathing, cleaning and being quite intimate with them, there’s no one can tell you to “f off” more better than an 80-year-old lady who’s having a bad day I can assure you. Wayne?
Wayne: I’m a little challenged now Drew because I thought I was the champion of telling people to “f off.”
Dr. Drew: I’ll have to take you to work and put you to the challenge with some of my little dears.
Wayne: For me, I think the issue of happy ageing is around being able to maintain the choices that you’ve been able to maintain rights throughout your life. Those things that you want to do, except with Grace that body’s fail and minds dim, but still maintain the personal integrity to get your own way. I don’t want to be like Grace, I don’t want to wait for a terminal diagnosis. I want to wear a feather boa and crown today.
Dr. Drew: You are on a challenge next week because we could see you in the camera. I want to see how you feather boa and a crown. Thanks.
Wayne: Well last week, we saw Bron do a nude shoot.
Dr. Drew: I haven’t seen the pic. So Bron, you’re going to have to send me a pic of that.
Bron: Just Google “Spencer Tunick” they’re all out there on the internet.
Dr. Drew: I’ll have a look.
Wayne: And you’ll be pleased to know Bron that my staff spent several hours blowing that photo up to enormous size to try and recognise you in there, but they didn’t succeed. So yes, you’ve been immortalized in the Philippines now.
Dr. Drew: Glenn?
Glenn: 1966 Bob Lind had a hit with a song called “Elusive Butterfly of Love” and I think in many ways happiness is an elusive butterfly. A couple of things no matter what stage in life regarding happiness. Rolling Stones “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction,” there’s something in human beings where we’re constantly comparing ourselves to others, “They seem happier than me. They’ve got more money than me.” A lot of that is an illusion. So I go back to India and something to do, someone to love, something to look forward to and finish with G Wayne Thomas, “It’s a start when you open up your heart and try not to hide what you feel inside.” There’s no formula but there might be some wisdom that helps us along the way.
Dr. Drew: I’ve done everybody on the panel and now my turn. My final comments on happy ageing, pretty simple. They do sit in the relationship of emotional intelligence but as I said to all our listeners and our Baby Boomers out there, know yourself, plan yourself, stay in 3 factors for happy ageing. One is your social economic and the way you make an income or have money to support yourself. Two, your connections with friends, families and the way you meet and greet or stay connected. Three, wellness and lifestyle activity and leisure. If you can get those three things sorted out, I reckon you’re going to have a pretty happy ageing. And as for all the rest of them, people who don’t matter, hit the “f off” button.
Wayne: We just need more of those buttons, that’s the answer.
Dr. Drew: I just leave it to Wayne now to close us out.
Wayne: And that was Booms Day Prepping. Once again, the panel of Baby Boomers and your two hosts have had their say, please have your say. Click in the comment area, make any comments you’d like us to consider, we monitor all of the social media channels and we will be able to respond if you send us a message. To our panelists, Amanda Lambros, Brian Hinselwood, Glenn Capelli and Bron Williams, thank you for being with us today. For Drew Dwyer our co-host, thank you for leading me through the discussion. My name is Wayne Bucklar, this is Booms Day Prepping.