The three pillars of healthy aging:
– creativity, – social connectivity – and spirituality
by Dorothy Lowrie
For the last four years, I have been developing and delivering presentations and courses designed to promote healthy aging. Each of the presentations and courses refer to what I have come to term, the three pillars of healthy aging: creativity, social connectivity and spirituality. In truth however, I would propose that these pillars apply to healthy living in general. So even if you do not consider yourself part of the aging or senior population, you may want to read on, since people of all ages are questioning how to stay healthy at this time of self-isolation due to the Coronavirus.
There are many self-help books and health-related books that I could cite to support my assertion that creativity, social connectivity and spirituality are the three critical areas of focus for healthy aging. But I would refer those who may question their validity to a book that remains, even today, the best seller of all times: The Bible.
In terms of creativity, the Bible gives reference to our responsibility to find and apply our God-given abilities well throughout our life. From scripture that encourages us to “not let our abilities tarnish” (Ex 28:3) to numerous passages that refer to our responsibility to use our abilities well and to view our skills and abilities as God-given and therefore, given to us as a ‘gift’ to be used ‘wisely’.
In applying these skills as we age, and particularly once we retire from our careers, we have a huge opportunity. Many people struggle with the loss of the career that might have defined them up until retirement. In our society, much of our identity is tied to our career. We can see the change in that identity as a loss or we can get creative and find a new identity through carefully considering our God-given abilities and how we might apply them to enrich not only our lives, but also the lives of others.
When it comes to social connectivity, isolation for the aging population is a serious problem. The Bible contains many scripture passages that support the importance of social connectivity, although at the time the terminology differed. From relationships ‘being more important than accomplishments’ (Ezr 3:12) to the great change Christ can make in your relationships (Phlm 1:16) or simply the need to love our neighbour as ourselves (Lk 10 27-37), all of us have a key role to play in ensuring we are members of a healthy, connected social network.
As we age, this social network can become an important cornerstone of our lives. Our social network could well be the difference between us staying in our own homes or needing to go into care. Even if we have children, we cannot necessarily rely on their support as often their lives are centered in other cities or are already hectic and filled with their own responsibilities. Through the social networks we join, external to our families, we may also find the key to unlocking our creativity. The idea from organizational learning that diversity often leads to creative problem solving applies to social groups as well as the corporate world.
And finally, and to my thinking, the most important aspect of healthy aging: spirituality. References to the importance of taking care of our spirit, how to apply our spiritual gifts, how to grow or find spiritual rebirth are numerous in Bible scriptures. Whenever I speak about spirit in my program, I ensure however, that I acknowledge that what we mean when we say spirituality may differ for each of us. For some, it may mean being out in nature. For others, they are still active within organized religion. For others, it means to care for their families, for their neighbours, or for their important social groups.
To explore your three pillars, I suggest you get creative. Find yourself three empty jars. Make a label and paste it on each jar: one for creativity, one for social connectivity and one for spirituality. Then, using strips of paper, do a brain-storm exercise (meaning, write whatever comes to mind without questioning it) in terms of what activities you currently have in your life relative to each area. Put them in the jars. Why write them down in this manner? When we write, we actually trigger the same parts of the brain that an expert musician does when they play their instrument or when the accomplished athlete participates in their sport. The act of writing itself will make you feel engaged and empowered!
The result of your efforts will be three jars and the ability to visually identify which of the three pillars need your most attention. Or perhaps you may find that all your jars are too full which could be the reason you feel exhausted or scattered. Then the question is, what could you take out of the jars to become more balanced?
If you would like to explore these areas further, I recommend that you refer to the best self-help book I know, The Bible. The first and most important step is that you saw the title of this article and felt it worth reading…I hope that you embrace these three pillars as guide to owning your own process of healthy aging.
Dorothy Lowrie, PMP, BAdmin, MAdEd is the CEO of Human Learning Architecture Inc. www.hlainc.ca