Adopting Slow Ageing to get more from life
‘Slow' is an increasingly powerful movement that advocates a cultural shift toward slowing down life's pace. It started in 1986 with the Slow Food movement with a protest against a McDonalds opening in Italy. In the context of Slow Foods, S stands for seasonal, L for local, O for organic and W for whole. The antithesis of fast food. In 2005, Carl Honoré wrote a best-selling book ‘In Praise of Slow’ and this brought widespread attention to the movement.
Why apply Slow to ageing? Much of the world is sold on ‘anti-ageing’ as though ageing is a war we will win at all costs. Instead of investing effort in fighting the inevitable, maybe we simply accept ageing? Maybe even embrace it and look for the gifts it might bring.
Think about what we don't want from life. We don't want our lives to go past in some sort of blur, where we wake up one day realising the best times were back in the past. ‘Slow’ is about finding the connections in all our experiences to allow us to savour its qualities.
To live a well life is to live a thoughtful life
Many of us have ended up in our personal situations lives through a mix of trial and error. We think strategically about work and about the big things in life like buying houses and cars. When it comes to working on our health and wellbeing though, it is like it is an optional extra. We rarely put ourselves first and then wake up one day in a mess of ill-health.
Until we get to a ‘certain age’ we don’t typically focus any attention on our personal end-point. We race through life in our twenties and thirties and then we hit our forties. And ‘hitting' our forties is what happens – mostly with a big shock. We wake up and realise we hadn’t really savoured our lives fully. Knowing that those big moments we took for granted were precious and rare and might never happen again. We see our mortality in the faces of the people around us, at school reunions where we look at others and think ‘my God that person has aged' and realise we are looking at ourselves. We see it as someone's husband has a heart attack out of the blue, when a girlfriend gets breast cancer, when friends can't come for a brisk walk due to some injury or other. It happens gradually at first and then ramps up as we move into our fifties, sixties and beyond.
What is Slow Ageing?
Slow Ageing is about identifying the value proposition for our lives and looking at ways we can optimise our wellbeing as we age. It is a philosophy where we deliberately apply certain principles so we get the wellness status we desire. Slow ageing is about getting the most from our lives, becoming conscious that our lives won’t go on forever and identifying who and what we need to be in order to have the life we we signed up for. It is not about avoiding ageing at all cost but looking for opportunities for growth and gain rather than accepting that ageing is a slippery slope toward death where we have no control over the process.
The Slow principles
S is for strategic. Being strategic means we look at how we want to live (from now) and set goals and plan each month, quarter and year. We envision being fulfilled human beings and consciously design our lives to accomodate this. We stop being a disempowered passenger and become the captain. If we are not happy with our jobs, relationships or financial situation, we fix it. We are proactive; we test to know our health status rather than waiting for the wheels to drop off. If we envision a full and social life as we age, then we work on new relationships and skills. We beat tiredness and inertia and ditch the ‘I’m so busy’ mantra and become the grownup we want to be.
L is for long term. We aim for success and we try, try, try again. We have the rest of our lives to implement new and healthy behaviours. To go Slow in life, we overcome the habit of being fast and this won't happen overnight. We are addicted to speed and we are wired to believe that there is a direct correlation between the speed at which we work and the size of outputs. But this is fundamentally flawed. We do more with less. We focus on the 20% that gives us 80%.
O is for organised. Our life plan encompasses wellness and is implemented against measurable objectives. We invest effort into interventions that work for us. We don’t defer exercise until we get more time. We do 10 minutes per day rather than none. We don’t use our busyness as an excuse for not respecting our bodies. And then pass on that notion of disrespect to our children, who will then also suffer from stress and over-fat and other scourges of our supposedly enlightened society.
W is for wilful. Our choices are made with full consciousness of their nature and effects. We are mindful of our actions and take decision making about our health and wellbeing very seriously. We think about our impact both personally and via the businesses we run. We are aware that we are connected beings and the people who live the longest come from connected communities.