I recently visited the oldest remaining family friend that I have, a lady of 102. She lives in her own home, helped by her daughter and carers, and is physically very frail but lively and alert in every other way. It was a pleasure to spend time with her as she talked about my grandmother, mother, aunts and uncles and what they got up to when they were young.
She was extremely interested in my life and work, talked about her own travels to New Zealand in particular, and wanted to know how I and my husband enjoyed our trips and to compare notes. She asked us which of the extended family and friends we were in contact with and asked us outright if we were happy together – luckily we both answered readily in the affirmative. She was at pains to tell us that was what mattered, along with doing as much as we could with our lives. She mentioned her own health only fleetingly in response to our pressing her on it.
It was a heartwarming and thought provoking encounter and living proof of the research that shows that contentment and fulfilment depend on making and sustaining connections with others and taking an active interest in other people and in the outside world. We should all take note!