Topology and Aging

In a brief lecture yesterday, I was reminded of the basics of demography: birth, migration, and death. The lecturer actually posed the question to us: “where do you want to die?” A new question for me. I had never thought about this before.

What immediately came to my mind was the opening passage of Annie Dillard’s An American Childhood. I had to scrounge around the internet for the exact words. This is what I found (at least part of the opening passage):

“When everything else has gone from my brain — the President’s name, the state capitals, the neighborhoods where I lived, and then my own name and what it was on earth I sought, and then at length the faces of my friends, and finally the faces of my family — when all this has dissolved, what will be left, I believe, is topology: the dreaming memory of land as it lay this way and that.”

I always had wondered if Dillard (not trained in physical sciences) had meant to use the word topology or if topography was really the word she wanted; but re-considering it now, I think topology is more significant…it relates to the interconnectedness of space. As a planner, I can appreciate it more than the surface-deep description that topography provides.

Back to death: I’ve realized that I feel deeply connected to certain landscapes (and not as much others), but I think I would want to die in a landscape I loved. In an increasingly aging society, providing opportunities to connect with nature, not hospital rooms, is essential. In the Netherlands, there are a number of researchers focused on Healthy Ageing– an effort to extend and enhance the quality of life for those eldest in our society. Access to nature is certainly part of it.


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