They say the countryside's where you go to retire, I say these rural idylls should come with a warning

Cities are more diverse, vibrant, and challenging - altogether much better places to head into one's dotage.

Share
Related Topics

I’m part of Generation Jones.  My cohort and I are the tail end of the Baby Boomers.  Although public opinion has decreed that middle age doesn’t actually kick in until 55, even the youngest of us Joneses (we were born between 1954 and 1965) will soon start yearning for a more sedate way of life.  According to advertisers, upon reaching that particular milestone we’ll experience a sudden craving for tranquillity.  Cascading through our letterboxes will be their shiny flyers depicting countryside homes - havens in which to retire.

My advice to those who fall for the pitch is - resist.  I’ve been there and come back with one conclusion – Arcadia should come with a health warning.

I live in the city but, this summer, whiled away a fortnight at our second home twixt green fields and sea.  It’s a place where I usually spend no more than the occasional weekend and I now know why.  The lack of stress turned my brain to slurry.  The daily wine intake probably didn’t help (I was, after all, on holiday), but it was being cut off from the hurly burly that was most stultifying.  Gentle strolls along hoary lanes made me dopey.  Returning home, the sound of the ocean lulled me into daytime snoozes.  The more I relaxed, the less I felt like getting off my butt and achieving something, anything. 

Why should that matter?  Because my stock in trade is ‘ideas’.  That’s the primary function of a freelance journalist – to come up with original ones and then turn them into features – even when we’re on holiday.  Being self-employed, I’m always on the lookout for inspiration yet, however much I tried to focus, my slack mind opted for the easy and the lazy.  In other words, I watched a lot of telly.

Creativity feeds off energy.  My gut feeling is that there’s more of it happening in cities than in rural idylls.  Perhaps it’s because the countryside is more homogenous.  For example, it’s people who are middle-aged, middle-class and white who permanently reside at my summer location, and their politics tend towards the conservative.  I am, admittedly, some of these things.  However, it’s mixing with those who are very different to me, in terms of ethnicity, age and class, which stimulates my grey matter.  When people of contrasting backgrounds get together, there’s inspiration.  I want my assumptions challenged but traditionalists demand conformity.    

Being laid-back rots the brain.  Recent research has found that people in rural areas may have double the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.  Medics are unsure why this should be.  My own - admittedly unscientific - theory is that fresh air and rolling fields aren’t enough to keep the mind stimulated.  Middle-aged people need to keep reassessing what they believe in, be open to new ideas and never, ever become complacent.

Last year, my mother died from complications arising from dementia.  She and her husband spent much of their retirement in a quiet backwater in front of the TV.  After he died, she withdrew into herself.  From being an intelligent, lively personality, she cut herself off from the outside world.  I think she’d have lived longer if she’d engaged with it instead.

On the debit side, the city can feel frenzied; on the credit side, it has better infrastructure.  The researchers saw this as a possible reason for the higher rates of Alzheimer’s they found in the countryside, where there are fewer ways and means for the disease’s diagnosis and treatment. 

Not only that, but it’s an ageing, aged place.  From 2001 to 2007, its population of pensioners increased by 15%, compared with 4% in urban areas.  Oldies in slippers tend to clump together.  No wonder the young rush in the opposite direction for the bright lights. 

In the meantime, the commonplace view persists that cities are worse for the health.  A quick internet search throws up the usual suspects, with the metropolitan routinely equated with pollution, toxins, noise and crowds.  A Daily Mail headline – "why living in a city makes you fat, infertile, blind, depressed and even causes cancer" – is typical. 

Setting the story straight are campaigners who want the middle-aged to face up to Arcadia’s reality.  According to ‘Over the Hill?’ nearly 60% of the over 55’s find the idea of rural retirement appealing.  It urges them to remove their rose-tinted specs.  The countryside, they say, suffers from inferior transport, services, housing and technology.  Its inhabitants report isolation and loneliness.  Urbanites yearning for the quiet life need to get wise.  It can be a killer. 

Currently, I live in a provincial town that masquerades as a city.  In a couple of years’ time, as soon as I’ve waved my youngest child off to college, I won’t be retreating to a rose-covered cottage but setting my sights on the largest, most vibrant and creative city in the UK – London.    

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Syrian refugee 'Nora' with her two month-old daughter. She was one of the first Syrians to come to the UK when the Government agreed to resettle 100 people from the country  

Open letter to David Cameron on Syrian refugees: 'Several hundred people' isn't good enough

Independent Voices
Amjad Bashir said Ukip had become a 'party of ruthless self-interest'  

Could Ukip turncoat Amjad Bashir be the Churchill of his day?

Matthew Norman
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project