I moved into a modest-sized retirement home (the Eugene Abbey) about four years ago, shortly after my wife died. These two events caused me to start paying more attention to my quality of life (QoL) and the quality of life of others. While living in this retirement facility, I began to explore what I could do to help improve the QoL of the residents. Over the past four years I have helped improve their library, computer facilities, outdoor garden and lawn area, and entertainment facilities. I am pleased by what I have been able to do. (Note: I now live on the Oregon coast, but maintain a small apartment in the retirement home.)
I have put my greatest emphasis into the computer area. Here is a recent note I received from a resident:
Thanks so much for all you do for the Abbey [retirement home] and for the confidence you show in the oldsters here. I am learning all about the Kindle Fire [tablet computer] you so generously gave me. I may be 96, but I’ve not stopped learning!
This note brought tears to my eyes. Lifelong learning—an important component of a good QoL!
The new Kindle Fire table retails for about $50. I donated a number of these to the retirement home and also paid for a person to provide instruction. The “requirements” are that a resident receiving a Kindle Fire agrees to take 16 hours of instruction. A quite popular area of instruction is using the digital camera and using email to send pictures to relatives and friends. Residents also enjoy the free video communication applications, the notes (lists) features, and access to books, games, videos, and so on.
A little over a year ago, I wrote an IAE Blog entry Quality of Life: Working Toward a Better Future (Moursund, 12/24/2014). The phrase quality of life keeps running through my head as I think about my life and the lives of other people. When I established Information Age Education, I stated that its goal is to help improve education at all levels and throughout the world. Now, I think that IAE’s goal is to help improve education at all levels and throughout the world as an aid to improving people’s Qol.
The United Nations addressed some basic QoL issues in its December 10, 1948, Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Quoting from this document:
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
We can argue about what constitutes adequately meeting these two goals: 1) standard of living, and 2) education. However, there is enough agreement about their meaning so that it is possible to roughly rank countries on the basis of how well they are doing, and we can develop a scale that can be used to measure how well our world is doing.
A 2005 report from The Economist (2005) ranked the United States 13th in quality of life out of 111 countries.
The website (NUMBEO, 2016) provides a list of 56 countries ordered by the QoL in these countries. In this survey, the U.S. is 12th in the list that begins with Switzerland, Denmark, New Zealand, Germany, Australia, Austria, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Finland, and the United States.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow’s 1943 Hierarchy of Needs provides a widely used starting point for discussing and measuring QoL. It has been has been modified over the years (McLeod, 2014). Here is McLeod’s list, with some of my thoughts interspersed.
• Biological and physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc.
Moursund comment. Many parts of the world face problems of air pollution, lack of good drinking water (and irrigation water), and inadequate food. I find it very hard to believe that a nation as wealthy as the U.S. has so many people living in abject poverty and so many homeless people.
• Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, etc.
Moursund comment. The U.S. spends a great deal of money to prevent and to combat terrorism. However, terrorism is a very small part of security, law, and order. Here is a statement that I found poignant:
The Popsicle Index is a quality of life measurement coined by Catherine Austin Fitts as the percentage of people in a community who believe that a child in their community can safely leave their home, walk to the nearest possible location to buy a popsicle, and walk back home.
• Love and belongingness needs – friendship, intimacy, affection and love, – from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships.
Moursund comment. Internet-based Social Networking is producing what Sherry Turkle (February, 2012) describes as: Connected But Alone. A “friend” on a social network is a lot different from a face-to-face friend.
• Esteem needs – self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, managerial responsibility, etc.
Moursund comment: A number of these items are linked to having a decent job that provides a decent and secure income. Many countries throughout the world are faced by a problem of the decreasing available of decent jobs.
• Cognitive needs – informal and formal education; knowledge, meaning, etc.
Moursund comment: Availability of a good education and achievement of a good education are ranked high in measures of QoL. There are varying definitions as to what constitutes “good,” but in the U.S. current national high school graduation rates are about 82% and the quality of these degrees varies considerably.
• Aesthetic needs – appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc.
Moursund comment: Over recent years, our schools have cut back the availability of art, music, dance, and related areas of instruction.
• Self-Actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.
Moursund comment: If you live in poverty with inadequate food, shelter, medical care, and education, you tend to face a major uphill battle in self-actualization.
• Transcendence needs – helping others to achieve self-actualization.
Moursund comment: Each of us can help others to achieve their self-actualization, and by doing so we achieve some of our own self-actualization needs.
QoL is a huge and very important discipline of study and aspect of our lives. We can all work to help others achieve a better QoL. In doing so, we typically help to improve our own quality of life.
I believe that QoL is an appropriate topic to integrate into our school curriculum and into the minds of our students.
What You Can Do
Do self-assessment to help determine your own QoL, whether it is increasing or decreasing, and what you can do to increase it. Talk with your students, children, friends, and others about how they view their QoL. Work with others to design and carry out projects that contribute to improving the QoL in your local community.
References and Resources
McLeod, S. (2014). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Retrieved 12/22/2015 from http://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html.
Moursund, D. (12/24/2014). Quality of life: Working toward a better future. IAE Blog. Retrieved 2/4/2016 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/quality-of-life-working-toward-a-better-future.html.
Moursund, D. (5/1/2014). Hungry children—America’s shame. IAE Blog. Retrieved 1/24/2016 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/hungry-children-america-s-shame.html.
NUMBEO (2016). Quality of life index by country. Retrieved 1/24/2016 from http://www.numbeo.com/quality-of-life/rankings_by_country.jsp.
Turkle, S. (February, 2012). Connected , but alone. TED. (Video: 19:48.) Retrieved 2/4/2016 from https://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together?language=en.