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To the last drop

Aging is a topic of the time, not least due to the unprecedented possibilities of genetic technology. The tireless peace researcher Johan Galtung (87) shares good advice for a rich old age with New Age readers.


I am approaching 87, and with my hand on my heart: After a long and rich life, I am at my peak – aging. I go slower, hear worse, am weaker; I know my years and "several cities in Belgium", but have trouble remembering what I ate at lunch.


Just think of this: Paid holidays all year round, I can do exactly what I want – draw on the benefits of the welfare state that I have paid for, swim in culture of all kinds, enjoy nature, soak up fresh morning air…

But I've been working a bit to get it this way. Prepare the age of youth and adulthood so that it does not become the judgment of yourself.

Here are seven rules for older people like myself:

1. Keep body, mind and spirit as active as possible – exercise them all. I recommend low carb, gorgonzola on Mother's Flatbread, antioxidants of the Medox type, based on blueberry skins. Blueberry! A lot.

2. Be open to the positive aspects of aging – seek them, cultivate them. Bertrand Russell said in the article "On Being 90": The disadvantages are obvious. Among the benefits: You have a fantastic overview, a long-term vision that can enrich you and others, your knowledge and experience can mature into wisdom.

But does anyone bother to listen to the seventh father in the house? It depends a bit on what you have to say. Maybe there is a wise school nearby?

3. By all means, don't fall! If you are so old, you are well past cancer and the heart / stroke age. But the fall is falling. Watch where you go, watch for wires for lamps and vacuum cleaner, watch out for the dangers of the bathtub. Have many and good handles. If something gets nasty, there is a Norwegian rule: There is no shame in turning. Remember: They are good at fixing broken bones. The father is the sick bed.

4. Simplify your surroundings to what you can master. The neighborhood / village, streets / roads you are familiar with, the neighborhood, the home / house, the room. Enrich it with books, CDs, DVDs, movies. I have given up flying small planes, standing on water skiing, downhill skiing, cross country skiing, riding a motorcycle, cycling (too steep). Now remains to car and to walk, well supported to a walker. I enjoy it, knowing that I will soon master even less.

Prepare the age of youth and adulthood so that it does not become the judgment of yourself.

5. Meeting. Your life companion (spoon), family. Have these dropped off – search with your friends, colleagues, neighbors. Other aging. Churches are good at creating environments for the elderly in their magnificent, often empty buildings. Loneliness kills. Share meals! Joint enjoyment of good tastes, smells and sight doubles the joy. Let treats and drinks stimulate your sense of taste and smell, but do not rinse them with water, and by no means with wine. Give good wine long term
hold in your mouth. Talk about it – "This was delicious, you guys!" Word the joys. Don't be stingy with positive words. Share troubles and "hurts", but always with the search for solutions. Round tables help.

6. Live two lives: in the network you build, and online. What a wealth – to be able to connect and go deep, around the world, and build networks, if only with short text messages. Use the amazing Skype, bring others near you and you near them. Help others around the world, be helped.

7. "Retire" is frighteningly close to "retire at death". Some community planners hope the period between the two will be three short years. There is some pleasure in letting the old-age pension compete with what you have paid in tax. But rather pay back by extending your working life. More and more do it, in old or new jobs, paid in full or in part. Or free of charge financed by pensions. Descartes said, "I think, so I am"; the Chinese say, "We love, so we are" (yin / yang); our communities say, "You work, so are you". What about a little bit of all three?

Others will enjoy your life, not just mourn your passing away.

Try the opposite of these seven: Get off, cut all ties and make no new ones, live only in one reality, lonely, in a complex world filled with physical and mental dangers, find nothing positive, be a passive object not an active subject, get no exercise for body or mind, eat poor food. And your old age will be a hell – brutish, nasty and short (Hobbes). We older people know what awaits us. But you can enjoy this precious gift – life – to the last drop. And hope that others will enjoy your life, not just mourn your passing away. And that you will live on in them.

Johan Galtung
Johan Galtung
Galtung is a peace researcher with 60 years of experience in conflict resolution. Galtung has been a frequent consultant to governments, companies and to the United Nations and its family of organizations. His relentless dedication to peace since he published Gandhi's Political Ethics has been recognized with thirteen honorary doctorates and professorships and an alternative Nobel Prize. He has generated a unique conceptual toolkit for empirical, critical and constructive inquiry into the subject of peace. The fundamental purpose of the Galtung-Institut goes beyond the transfer of the theoretical, methodological and practical skills developed by Johan Galtung and others in over 50 years of progress in peace research and practice. The overall goal of the GI is indeed to continue contributing to the further development of peace theory and peace praxeology in the interest of a desperately needed reduction of human and environmental suffering.

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