23 March 2015 – ageing, food shopping and the benefits of sociality

A recent article by Anne Karpf (UK Guardian 15 March) and a new book by Susan Pinker called ‘The Village Effect’ (Atlantic Books) look at how being social can affect longevity. These are interesting reflections; Susan Pinker – a developmental psychologist –argues that face-to-face contact, not virtual contact such as Facebook, Twitter etc., is what increases longevity and reduces the risks of illness; for her, the loss of physical, personal contact in the internet age, is shortening lives whereas the benefits of close-knit communities extend it.

Anne Karpf – a writer and sociologist – touches on related issues when she writes about how cities can be inhospitable places for people as they age. She suggests that increasingly only the more affluent venture in to city centres to go to theatres, museums, concerts etc. in what has become a form of ‘spatial injustice’. This makes ageing ‘a problem’, with older people ‘confined’ to their homes which can lead to a deterioration in their physical and mental health. Although these are problems that can be experienced by anyone, her article recognises the benefits of  ‘age-friendly changes’ in our local communities, where negotiating everyday activities such as shopping, gardening and even sitting in public is thought about and made easier for older people; she stresses the importance of ‘third spaces’, where the boundaries between public and private spaces are blurred, allowing people to rest and chat.

For me, both writers are exploring issues that have resonance for food shopping and sociality (a regular topic on this blog) as we contemplate the effects of internet shopping and the loss of local shops and markets on not only older shoppers but many other marginalised groups.

You can read Anne Karpf’s article here and read more about Susan Pinker’s book, The Village Effect here and a review here

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