This month, I want to discuss health. Specifically, I want to ask: what does it mean to be healthy?
Most of us would jump to a quick answer. However, the definition of health could be different depending on where you’re from and what your beliefs are. The obvious answer to you might not be included in someone else’s definition of health.
In the United States, we often define health as the absence of illness or disease. We feel healthy when there is an absence of things that make us go see a doctor. We consider ourselves healthy as long as our life is unimpeded by physical limitations.
The definition of health could be different depending on where you’re from and what your beliefs are. The obvious answer to you might not be included in someone else’s definition of health.
As a Latino, I have a slightly different perspective. I was born in Medellín, Colombia, a region where the majority of people identify as Catholic.
In Colombia and many other regions like it, health is not defined by the lack of disease or by any diagnosis. Rather, health is defined by how you live your life. Are you happy? We would ask: “Are you working to live or are you living to work?”
For me, an added component as a pastor’s son and now a pastor myself, is how is your health with God? Where are you in your walk with God?
Other cultural groups have different answers to what it means to be healthy. The Chinese concept of health is based on religion and philosophy. If the negative energy of yin and positive energy of yang is balanced, you could say there’s good health.
This concept can go further and further down the line into different culture groups. Research in Aging and Diversity suggests that African Americans agree with the U.S. conceptions of health. However, some who ascribe to charismatic Christianity or mix in traditionally pagan beliefs may also see bad health as involving an evil spirit or a consequence of sin. In this case, healing might involve a doctor but also praying, herbs or rituals.
Next week, we’ll discuss how our definition of health influences how we age.
For now, I turn the question to you: What does it mean to be healthy? How do you define health? How does physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health play into your definition?
If you’re interested in helping a senior stay healthy, consider becoming a relief care volunteer.