In the dead of winter, last January, my Zoom friends and I decided we’d travel to the Stratford Festival in early September 2023. It was an impromptu idea, born of short days and long nights, hunkering down inside our homes, waiting for the pandemic to pass us by. The friends, as I like to call them, have been friends for more than 50 years. We met in Ottawa back in the 1970s when we were beginning our adult lives. During the pandemic, we came together again online every Friday since March 2020, to discuss the week’s events and share our joys and sorrows.
Nine of us travelled to Stratford this September; it seemed like a continuation of our weekly Zoom calls.
Today, the geopolitical situation is as complex as it was back in 1970. That’s why, when I was in my local library the other day, I checked out The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life, a book by New York Times bestselling author and columnist David Brooks. Now, I’m finding Brooks as a safe and sturdy marker in this divisive geopolitical universe. I find my concerns illuminated in Brooks’ “The Second Mountain.” When I watch the news tonight, I’m going to ponder David Brooks’ The Second Mountain and imagine what our world could be if we stepped back and considered our place in it, what truly matters to us and those we are closest to. If it sounds too simple, perhaps it is.
The long-standing theory that older people are entirely set in their ways is becoming obsolete. “People’s personalities can morph in response to their circumstances, helping them shift priorities, come to terms with loss, and acclimate to a changing life. The method psychologists are using to determine these changes is to measure the “Big Five” personality traits: agreeableness, conscientiousness, extroversion, openness to experience and neuroticism. The stereotype of the grumpy older adult need not be the personality profile to emulate. Not only is retirement a reason to retreat from the rat race, but it is a perfect time to follow your heart and your interests. So, try not to be too grumpy or close your mind and spirit to friends and family. Take the initiative.
By the early 2030s, Canada will join the ranks of other “super-aged” countries, such as Japan and Germany, according to the final report of the National Institute on Ageing’s “road map” for improved long-term care services. This report focuses on community support rather than traditional nursing homes as a solution to Canada’s rapidly aging population. Those with higher unmet care needs were reported in households in areas with lower socioeconomic status, creating inequities among people with lower incomes, the report also explained. It stands to reason that many of us are planning to age successfully and safely in our own homes. It’s top of mind. In the coming years, our reliance on unpaid family-driven care will increase, yet only some live close to their children.
Let’s face it, 60 years ago the life expectancy for Canadians was around 70 years of age. Today those who reach 65 are expected to live for at least another two decades. Along with this growth in life expectancy, “there is an increasing concern about whether Canadians can afford their own retirements. In response to these changes, the NIA recommends six policy initiatives that could assist older Canadians in aging in the way they wish. That’s where the CHIP Reverse Mortgage can be a solution to retirement. After carefully reading this 2023 report on aging by the NIA, it’s reassuring to see how the CHIP Reverse Mortgage can offer both the financial stability and the mental and physical health that accompanies financial stability.
In The Atlantic magazine, Jennifer Senior wrote about the puzzling gap between how old you are and how old you think you are. According to Senior, it’s called subjective age. “Adults over 40 perceive themselves to be, on average, roughly 20 percent younger than their actual age.” It’s important to remember that aging is a natural process that should be celebrated rather than stigmatized. We need to shift our focus from youth-centric ideals to embracing the wisdom, experience, and accomplishments that come with age. Let us refine beauty and recognize that the lines on our faces and the stories that we tell are badges of honour.
“What does successful aging mean? Ninety-seven percent of Canadian baby boomers want to age in place, to remain part of their community, yet at the same time, boomers aren’t clear about the different services available to them. Now is the time to find out.” As a prominent Toronto-based speaker about aging, Lanz has observed what happens to people when their choices are taken away, when there are no long-term plans in place or when they are in a crisis, forced into making decisions under pressure. Although many of us focus entirely on finances, housing, health, and resources also play an enormous role in ensuring we age confidently and with success.
As women age, they’re more likely to age in poverty with basic issues of access to affordable housing, so we need to research and understand the optimal models of housing that could allow more older women to age in the right place,” says Sinha, who for years has been the leading authority on solutions for aging with dignity in Canada. Yet, the question is, how do we develop and implement housing solutions for older Canadians when the cost of housing, be it ownership or renting, is so daunting? Older Canadians require deep thinking by housing policy experts who can provide the groundwork to create incentives for aging Canadians to live together and share expenses while enjoying each other’s company.
My physician, who is about 40 years younger than me, is gorgeous, brilliant, and humane, and I realized, at that moment, that our lives, whatever our age, will never return to what they were before Covid. Three long years of isolation, away from friends and family, is not the best way to live one’s life. No matter how hard we try to amuse ourselves, our daily lives aren’t complete without others by our side. I found it comforting to realize that although Covid has changed so much about our daily lives, getting together with those with whom we share history, interests, and concerns is a way to open our hearts and minds to happiness and away from grumpiness.
As we age, longevity becomes a big issue. We talk about it. Think about it and wonder what our latter years have in store for us. Like me, you probably didn’t consider how long you would live when you were 16 or even when you turned 30. Today, even The Washington Post looks at longevity from our point of view, so much so that it reports: “Our brains are built to change over our lifetime, meeting the challenges set by every life stage” and asks, “Do brains peak in childhood? Is it all downhill after 30? Can a 65-year-old brain keep up with an adolescent?” New research is discovering that the brains of older individuals have the potential for greater wisdom built from a lifetime of experience and learning.