What is a family? How could our concept of what a family is, or might be, impact our choices in living healthily? Might we have both a blood-related and a strong chosen family? In what way might we create a sense of family that serves the needs all generations? What implications might that have for chapters in our later life?
I recently met several women who met in their twenties, and over the past forty years have created and lived the benefits of a strong chosen “family”. Some formed committed relationships and adopted or bore children and some remained single.
Here are ways that a broad definition of “family” has served them. As you read the list, consider the ways these could be beneficial. You or someone you know:
• owns a time-share and regularly includes others in vacations
• has a large garden for outdoor parties and growing vegetables to share
• maintains (although single), a large vehicle that can accommodate the “family” including providing transit when one of the younger generation went off to university or if mobility devices need to be transported
• shares their electric car for short journeys
• includes someone without children/grandchildren of their own in family events, celebrations, discussions of decisions on health and education
These women have taken vacations together to defer cost and share in the experience. They regularly cook large quantities of food and share in the preparation or meals and social interaction with others lives. All have chosen to live in close enough proximity to participate in caregiving if someone is ill, and for social interaction.
There are practical and sometimes legal issues to be considered, when we intertwine our lives in this way but many models of “family” are increasingly being explored.
How is this relevant for you? In what way could you explore the opportunities you might embrace by broadening your “family”? What benefits or challenges would you anticipate? Who makes up your family? Where do the opportunities lie for you?
Likely, your longevity – your life course will be more positively shaped by how innovative you are in answering these questions.