What does it mean to be happy? What are the paths to access happiness? Questions concerning seniors over 70 but also the youngest. Solid teaching responses in this new “Observatory of Age”.
AGING IS NOT A DISEASE! The invention of old age The world has not always been populated by the elderly. There were some in ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome or the Middle Ages, but the documents available to historians rarely allude to them, and before the 16th century, ancient societies did not divide human existence into slices of life. A life began at work and ended with death. The old man was just an older adult. And the aversion of these traditional societies to numbers most often deprives us of knowing the precise age of the indi-vidus. In the Middle Ages, for example, no one knew his age within ten years2! Until the emergence of a legal retirement age, there was no recognised old age as such. It was from the 18th century onwards that figures, medical accounts and social surveys were added to and clarified this vision. Today, as we live longer and longer, old age has become a decisive stage in life. However, not everyone approaches it in the same way: some see it as inevitable, others as a great opportunity.
A real life lesson from our elders
At a time when old age is only mentioned in terms of the end of life or dependence, this third wave shows that 84% of people aged 70 and over declare themselves “happy”. 72% of them think so when they live in Ehpad.
Beyond this figure, seniors have a particularly encouraging message: our elders believe that happiness does not happen by chance, at a single moment, but that it is something that can be learned throughout life.
For seniors, the first key to happiness is health. In the Côtes-d’Armor, a group meets twice a week to walk outdoors. Exercising keeps you going. “I have to move, otherwise I’ll get old and I don’t want to,” says a retired member of the group with a smile on her face. Another secret to keep happy, to be well surrounded, especially by your grandchildren, a source of happiness. Finally, you have to enjoy life. When you retire, you finally have time for your passions.
The 3 ways to happiness
- 1st path: “well-being”.
Whether it is seniors in general or residents in Ehpad, the environment plays an essential role. This well-being is due to the presence of the spouse for residents at home (44%) or simply to the fact that residents in Ehpad, who are more isolated (67%), regularly see relatives.
- 2nd path: “Aging well”.
Beyond the importance of family and friends, “always having someone to talk to” is essential for seniors (36% and 53%), as is “having good medical care” (41% and 51%), or “being close to medical centres” (29%) and finally having good health insurance is also important at 92%.
- 3rd way: the “little joys of everyday life”
Our elders are convinced that the “little joys of everyday life” contribute to a happy life. Thus, “living the present moment” is, in a spontaneous way, most often cited as the “ingredient” of happiness. Unlike the first two paths, this is a hedonism of everyday life.
Happiness, an art that can be learned
For our elders, happiness is not so much a “state of affairs” as a process.
For 84% of seniors and 62% of residents in Ehpad, happiness is something that can be learned throughout life, although progress towards an age where one becomes more dependent limits this progression.
- 25% believe that “the older you get, the happier you are”.
- 24% that “the older you get, the happier you are, but it fades at a certain age”.
- 31% think that “the older you get, the less happy you are”.
Through these testimonies and feedback from life experiences, seniors send us an encouraging message, an invitation to age… towards happiness.
Access to healthcare: an important issue for Harmonie Mutuelle
Aware of the ageing of the population and the challenge of access to healthcare services for nearly 1/3 of seniors living at home, Harmonie Mutuelle has been committed for many years and supports its members throughout their lives by promoting access to quality healthcare for all.