The final chapter in Home Run: The Reverse Mortgage Advantage is my favourite chapter in the book. In the opening to this chapter, HomeEquity Bank’s Executive Vice President of Marketing and Sales, Yvonne Ziomecki writes: “Like many people, when I was younger I was afraid of getting older, of the aches and pains and health problems, of looking old. Now as I enter my fifth decade, I try not to think about aging in terms of numbers. Instead, I ask myself: Where am I in life? Am I happy? What can I do with and for the people in my life?”
During the last year, it’s been challenging (to say the least) to celebrate aging, to stay optimistic and “to keep on trucking,” as we boomers used to say when we were young. Older folks closeted in long-term care facilities came down with the virus in droves while some endured a lack of even the most basic of care. No matter how rapidly the fatalities climbed, governments weren’t willing to take the public health steps necessary to abate the number of deaths or remedy the sub-standard conditions in some facilities.
What it will take to get contemporary society to respect and honour the lives and contributions of their elders is impossible to predict. I prefer to think about what Ziomecki and co-author HomeEquity CEO Steven Ranson suggest to combat ageism:
“We would say one of the most important things you can do is to speak out against stereotypes when you see them. At this point, society has so forcefully marginalized older people that they begin to internalize their own marginalization! They start to feel like they don’t have a voice or that their voice is not important. One way that older people can help in this struggle is to give themselves permission to speak up and tell those around them what they want and need. That goes from creating a dialogue with your adult children and letting them know when you need help, to public advocacy for your own age group.”
Canada’s older adults are the most effective ambassadors and ultimately the ones who will transform public opinion by agitating for action to make ageism a thing of the past. To that end, in Home Run, Ranson and Ziomecki offer these tips:
- Connect with your federal and provincial elected representatives regarding the rights of older people, including improvements to long-term facilities and the development of home care options for those of us who wish to age in place. Hold politicians and health care providers accountable for the promises they make.
- Make a point of talking to younger people about ageism and its negative effects on society as a whole.
- Keep yourself in tip-top shape. That includes eating well and making exercise, such as walking and stretching, a part of your routine. Try to stay active intellectually by keeping up with current events—through reading or watching the news or reading books and magazines—and talking to others about what you’ve learned.
- Stay social. No matter how difficult it may be during the pandemic, try to find novel ways to stay in touch with your family and friends. Experiment with online video calling applications, such as FaceTime or Zoom, which enable you to have visual interaction with others. Join online tours, lectures, classes and even yoga or meditation sessions. And don’t forget to pick up the telephone to call the ones you can’t visit with face-to-face who might not be computer savvy.
- Last, but not least, pay attention to your finances. Make a plan that ensures you can live the way you wish to live for as long as possible. If moving out is not for you, investigate the advantages of a reverse mortgage and how the equity you’ve built up in your home can provide you with the independence and the security you’re searching for.
In other words, never give up on yourself as you age. With your experience and your fortitude, you have much to celebrate. Even if society as a whole hasn’t learned to respect its elders and offer us the opportunities to enjoy a long and happy retirement, we know, in our hearts and minds, that we deserve the best.