The Perception of Ageing Well in Different Cultures

The Perception of Ageing Well in Different Cultures

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In their study on Baby Boomers and ageing well between 2008 and 2018, Seniosphère Conseil highlighted the difference in perception of what ageing well is from one country to another. Special emphasis is put on « being in good mental health » in France (78%) and in Germany (68%), while the percentage is lower in the United Kingdom (47%). For the British, « being active » is the most popular (62%).

In the United Kingdom, ageing well is a major concern for Baby Boomers, to be taken in consideration early on, when you are 30 to 40. There are aware of the fact that ageing well involves changing to a healthier way of life, particularly in terms of diet, even if it means putting pleasure to one side. The medical dimension is important to ageing well, as are activities outside home.

German Baby Boomers are increasingly interested in ageing well, but this remains a consideration that comes later. Ageing well has a strong hedonistic content, it’s about feeling good in your body and in your mind. To get to it, the priority is on diet, socializing and leisure. When they look to the future, German Baby Boomers are reluctant to change their habits.

The different ways to envisage ageing well and longevity is also influenced by many social and economic criteria. The more affluent consider that ageing well should be considered at a younger age, compared with the less affluent, and project themselves more actively in their longevity.

Ageing Well: A Changing Concept

The concept of ageing well has evolved along the years. In France and the United Kingdom, the phrase « bien vieillir/ageing well » has been used since 2007 and 2009. While it was initially connected to anti-ageing, the term has gradually entered our everyday vocabulary. Contrary to anti-ageing, it is associated to a more positive vision of getting older, with an approach to support ageing and accept its signs.

le bien vieillir dans les magazines

We can see that this evolution in language in the choice of headlines by French magazine L’Express: « Staying young » in 2009, « Staying young until 100 » in 2014, « It will be possible to live 300 years » in 2016, and « They teach us how to stay young” in 2017. We go from the cult of youth to the acceptance and claiming of old age from 2009 to 2017.

In Germany, there is no phrase to describe ageing well. The topic is not addressed as often as in France and the United Kingdom, which is a sign of a lesser interest. However, things change, and we’ve observed along the years, an increase in the proportion of German Baby Boomers who declare that ageing well is very important.

Recently, it is the concept of longevity, which has appeared in the media landscape, initially connected to the semantic field of fear, and losing autonomy. It is now a widely open theme which can be addressed with a more aspirational vision.