You’ve heard of health at every size, well now we are diving into the lesser-spoken about topic: health at every age. We all “have” health with varying degrees of positivity or ailments. It’s time to open up the discussion and learn how our relationship to health changes over time.
We’ve brought in gran-and-grand-daughter duo, Loo and Jan Fletcher. You can read all about Loo aka The Vegan Mellanhand on our first interview with her.
Loo is the Scandi inspired alternative life advocate who turned her burnout from her legal career into something beautiful; she is on a mission to reinvent 21st-century mental health. This woman founded The Communitea in 2018, they drink lots of tea and have a vision for a more compassionate world where mental health has both an individual and collective approach. Togetherness projects and creations are at the heart of what they do, from body positivity photo exhibitions and sunflower suicide prevention pom-pom distribution, to knit for loneliness scarves.
Jan is 84 years ‘old’ and is a gran to Loo. From growing up in Herefordshire as a farmer’s daughter, to living a more cosmopolitan life in the City, this woman loves to live life to the full! Jan refound love at 65 and has never been happier, she continues to keep her mind and body active by knitting, baking, walking, flicking through Vogue keeping abreast of the fashion and always learning new things. You can expect to see her The Vegan Mellanhand’s Communitea instagram, she likes having her ‘old’ voice on the gram, she truly lives up to an Instagram!
At what age did you both become interested in your own personal health as well as the health industry.
Loo: When I burnout at the age of 24, I only realized the sheer importance of health. Up until this point I had taken my mental health for granted, but actually, it is foundational before I do any shining on societal issues. That is why I am so passionate about not letting yourself reach breaking point before any action is taken. Today, I also appreciate the connection between your physical and mental health, I swim to keep both happy!
Jan: From the age of five I was taught self-care is paramount in life, activity was a core part of my day walking five miles a day to and from school. At sixteen, I bought my first lipstick and understood the value of making yourself feel good. Today despite our age differences Loo and I continue to self-care alongside one another, sharing advice and new ideas, it really is something I cherish in my life.
Do you think the health industry is “ageist” in any way?
L: Whilst language is changing around services and products, I think there is a long way to go. The thing with language is that it is living and contextual to society in this present moment. It has the ability to imply stereotypes and expectations at certain ages e.g. ‘anti’ or ‘youthful’, for me this is not ok!
J: When I see adverts whether that be in magazines, or on the TV I can feel detached from what they’re promoting because too many ‘younger’ people are advertising for ‘older’ people. Why not have a mix to show it can be any age and not just ‘ the young’ or ‘the old’. When you compare to the fashion world, I think it’s a different game, they are slightly ahead of the health industry.
What are you doing to fight back and speak out about health at every age?
L+J: We are both ignoring numbers. Numbers give out stereotypes and expectations and we are rebelling! Individually we are ‘being’ with our health both mentally and physically. Loo is focusing on advocating living alternatively to society, living in her van means she is connecting with herself in a much healthier way; minimalist living, daily swims and connecting with others. Jan is continuing to keep mentally and physically active, despite the expectations of living in an 84 year old body. We are also coming together to show ‘togetherness’ across different generations and this is a beautiful thing for your health. We will chat about our ‘Knit For Loneliness’ creations below.
Are there movements or individuals who inspire you when it comes to promoting good health for all?
J: Inspiration channels have changed as I have grown up, however, I have to be honest and find inspiration in myself. I have had to carve out my being and have gone against the grain a lot of my years; if you can’t find inspiration in yourself who else can?
L: Gran herself truly inspires me; she shines a light on the fact you should see people as people no matter what age you are.
What does health mean to you?
L: Health means sustainability, in the free-from and free to way. Learning your own tools to be in the position to regulate your own wellbeing both mentally and physically is what true health means to me.
J: Activity in the mental and physical sense and also independence in being a position to live your life without any constraints to such a degree that it impairs your daily living.
Does the term “health” change its meaning when we apply it to different age groups? and how?
J: No. When I was young I thought health only came with age. Looking back age doesn’t define ill health, illness or healthiness.
L: I agree with Gran: like I mentioned earlier I took my health for granted and at age 24 I came to understand the sheer importance of sustainability in living a healthy life.
What has the response been so far to your campaign?
‘Knit For Loneliness’ scarves have had such a positive response both online and offline. 21st-century living throws up all kinds of stereotypes and expectations at different ages. Jan is behind the creation; shining light that you can be connected to your creativity no matter what age you are. Feeling connected to yourself is paramount to limiting loneliness. We are coming together to share skills and conversation all in the name of mental health! People are commenting on the innovation of both shining a light on the issues within modern-day society and bringing different generations together. Conversations around stereotypes and alternative ways of living are happening and we couldn’t be happier. If only more people paused, engaged with one another and reflected on those conversations; our minds could be a lot healthier by being open to more ideas and ways of living.
What is one thing you have learned so far from this experience?
L: Just how similar one can be to someone regardless of age. It is outlook, interests and values that bring people together, and that is beautiful.
J: I surprised myself of what I can do, I had forgotten that I could create! I feel a lease of life, as I have rebuilt that connection, and opened part of my life that I didn’t think I was capable of.
How do you hope your campaign will grow and shape the area of health at every age in the future?
We hope to shine a light by mixing ‘young’ and ‘older’ people wonderful moments can happen. Neither group should individually be pushed aside on the issue of loneliness, but rather should come together to rediscover and converse.
What is one piece of health-related advice you wish you could share with your younger self?
L: don’t try to be anyone else physically or mentally. Do what feels right for you, just listen to your intuition.
J: like Loo, I would say live to your own values and not expectations of others around you.