As Canadians, we spend a bit longer than do other nationalities hibernating during the winter and are very familiar with the need for a good spring cleaning of our homes come nicer weather. This experience is not exclusive to any age group, all of us seem to confront the need to de-clutter from time to time but when an elder has a home filled with a lifetime’s worth of stuff, the task can seem more daunting!
I recently turned 55 and hence, I officially joined those Canadians aged 55 and above categorized by demographers as ‘elders’. Not sure how I feel being referenced by that term! I mean, Canadians live, on average, well into their 80’s so who among us aged 55 to say 70 who yet enjoys good health, really feels like an ‘elder’ on the inside?
Many of us have participated in the challenging decision to register a loved one in a long term care facility. This decision is often made necessary due to the consequences of old age; that time when an aged person loses the ability to completely care for themselves in the activities of daily living; called ADL’S (Activities of daily living). Things like dressing and bathing, walking, cooking and feeding oneself. While the wait for placement is long, about 103 days, there are more than 637 facilities in Ontario to choose from.
As Canada’s elder population expands, it naturally and continually draws a greater percentage of those numbered among the generation or two below the aged, into formal and informal elder caregiver roles. Despite the current demographic challenge of aging, Canadians also have, on average, much smaller families.
Employers are more challenged than ever to attract and retain knowledgeable and skilled workers. Baby boomers are rapidly retiring and millenials, while abundant, often job shop and hop. So what’s the solution; older workers! Who exactly? It could be anyone over the age of 55.
The mix among age groups in our population continues to tilt towards an older population. Who better to serve the graying population than capable and abundant graying and available elders!
All of us get lonely, even those of us well-connected socially or from large, close-nit families. We are social creatures by nature we humans, regardless of our age! The thing is that as elders age, more when they are in their late 70’s and 80’s, they get out less often and through the phenomenon of natural occurring personal losses, have fewer friends and family members alive among them. That makes visiting older elders all the more important.
Aging in place is a term often used among elder advocates to describe that group of elders who choose to remain living in their home as opposed to moving into an apartment of retirement community. This usually requires them to make some elder specific adjustments to their home environment, appropriate for their particular physical needs to help maintain their independent living. That list of changes includes but is not limited to things like ensuring suitable railings at all stairways. Good lighting at approaches to an entryway and stairs.
There are so many articles and various experts available today that speak to the complexities and challenges of increased longevity yet few actually mention something as important as maintaining one’s appearance as grow older! While we might conclude that doing so simply ‘goes without saying’, experience proves otherwise. Like any habit, attention to the increased demands of our own personal care and grooming can slip as we age, especially among older men. Women can also tire at the increased work it seems to be to do their hair and makeup well.
In August, the President of the Canadian Medical Association publically stated that Ottawa should provide a financial ‘top-up’ to help provinces deal with the additional costs caused by an aging population. She offered some alarming deductions, saying things like: “There is no question that it costs more to look after an aging population, and clear action and increased support are needed if Canada’s health-care system is to survive.” I most heartily agree that the effects of an aging population are dramatically escalating health care costs.
As I get older, I have the occasion to attend more and more memorial services and funerals for loved ones, friends and acquaintances. That isn’t very remarkable. Each year, more than 250,000 Canadians die and, as we each get older, we are simply much more proximate to the majority of these deaths that occur predominately late in one’s life. Still, whether a recently deceased has died before their time or after a ripe old age, when attending these celebrations, knowing what to say to truly express one’s sympathy can be problematic.