Generations around the world

I am finally back! Sorry for the long absence! I was away visiting my son who is teaching in Morocco. Richard and I had a wonderful visit with him and really enjoyed our time in Marrakech, Essaouira and surroundings. We also enjoyed our week in Barcelona before heading to Morocco.

640px-MoroccoEssaouira_street2
Different generations in the streets of Essaouira, Morocco

One thing I could not help but notice while in both Spain and Morocco, was the number of people of all ages you see out and about, even late into the evening. Children, youth, young adults, middle-aged and older adults all seem to congregate in the outdoor coffee or tea cafes and, in Marrakech, also in the famous souks we visited. People came together in community. I didn’t see a lot of folks suffering from the more western affliction of isolation. I think our European and North African friends may be onto something here.

In her research, for example, Dr. Laura L. Carstensen has found that being alone or isolated from others is not good for our health. Carstensen is Professor of Psychology and Public Policy at Stanford University and the founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity. Knowing that there are people who care about you, she observes, is essential to healthy aging. As she writes, “The perception that you are alone is as great a risk factor for mortality as cigarette smoking.”[1] Carstensen’s observations, however, are alarming when we consider the Baby Boom generation. In her observations below, Carstensen affirms what Robert Putnam noticed over 15 years ago in his ground-breaking book, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.

 

The 55-to-64-year-olds just about to join the ranks of the elderly are far less socially engaged now than their predecessors were at the same age 20 years ago. And this pattern emerged across virtually all traditional measures of social engagement: Boomers are less likely to participate in community or religious organizations than were their counterparts 20 years ago. They are less likely to be married. They talk with their neighbors less frequently. And it doesn’t stop with participation in communities and neighborhoods: boomers report fewer meaningful interactions with their spouses and partners than did previous generations, and they report weaker ties to family and friends.[2]

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Different generations in the streets of Barcelona, Spain

In the opening pages of the Bible, we are reminded of our need for community and its centrality to healthy living: “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). I take this not so much to be a commentary on men and marriage, although studies show again and again that men live longer and happier lives when they are married; rather, I see this primarily as an observation on how essential friendships and other relationships — married or single, straight or gay – are for women and men both. Indeed, one of our greatest fears in life, from early infancy right to older adulthood, is that we will be left alone. Perhaps this is why the authors of our United Church’s A New Creed thought that it was so important to highlight, not once but twice, that “we are not alone.”[3] Healthy living means being in relationship with God and others.

What are you doing to nurture your relationship with God and others? I would love to hear!

Footnotes:
[1] Laura L. Carstensen, “Baby Boomer Are Isolating Themselves as They Age,” Time Magazine, May 23, 2016.
[2] Ibid.
[3] A New Creed , the United Church of Canada, (1968; rev. 1980, 1994).

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