Older age often creeps up on people. In the immortal words of Yogi Berra, "The future ain't what it used to be."
Many who had the best intentions of preparing for retirement now find themselves with inadequate pensions that do not keep pace with inflation. Some are at serious risk of outliving their savings. As each new year begins, they find they can afford less and less, until needs shrink to become more and more basic.
Many of us set out our resolutions for the new year. We resolve to lose weight, pay off our debts, or exercise more, and achieve varying levels of success when trying. But seniors often live in the moment, and so resolutions are less pressing for them.
So instead of new year's resolutions for seniors, here's a list of top 10 resolutions for how we can help our senior population in 2013:
1. Our governments and service providers should find a way to invest in home care so that seniors can live as independently as possible for as long as possible. Home care keeps seniors independent and healthier longer, ultimately saving the healthcare system -- and all taxpayers -- money.
2. Senior celebrities should keep on strutting their stuff and being great role models (think of Betty White, the Rolling Stones, Sir Paul McCartney, Leonard Cohen, Gloria Steinem). Oh, and Hollywood (and Hollywood North) should keep profiling seniors positively, as they did with the award-winning The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
3. Seniors shouldn't have to choose between buying a battery for their hearing aid or feeding their cat. Seniors shouldn't have to think about these levels of "either/or" at this stage of their lives.
4. All seniors, even those in assisted living facilities or receiving ready-made meals, should enjoy healthy, fresh and tasty food throughout the year. Nobody deserves to eat heated-up dinner trays or processed foods day in and day out.
5. Make our cities more age-friendly. In particular, ensure there is enough affordable housing options for seniors on fixed incomes, with appropriate age-friendly designs, such as elevators, wider hallways and doorways, etc.
6. For seniors in assisted living facilities, adequate hygiene should not mean just having showers on a predetermined basis. The recent revelation that some Alberta seniors only receive one shower per week brought needed attention to seniors' personal care needs.
7. Children and grandchildren should continue to connect and visit with their older family members. Let's do this out of love and not out of duty, as the proposed new law in China dictates.
8. Seniors should still get opportunities for outings, and not just sit around waiting for time to pass, as if living in a warehouse. Seniors are perfectly capable of learning new things and skills and their lives can be full and rewarding by connecting and sharing with each other.
9. Value our seniors for the unpaid work they do as caregivers and community volunteers. They continue to help build our communities even in retirement.
10. Seniors should be understood as fully valued and respected members of our community for their experiences and wisdom. Too often in our disposable society, we even consider people to be obsolete when they reach a certain age.
We need to work together to ensure a better future for all our seniors. To do this, we need all levels of government, our corporate sector and individual citizens to care and to share their time, talents and treasure with seniors.
After all, the future comes one day at a time, and before we know it, we will be the ones celebrating the new year with an increasingly grateful heart and hoping that the generations behind us will value us too.
Arlene Adamson is the CEO of Silvera for Seniors, a non-profit organization which provides a home to over 1,500 lower-income Calgary seniors. She is also co-chair of the Seniors and Special Populations Sector Housing Committee, and on the steering committee for the province of Alberta's Housing Access Link.
Bones can become thinner and more brittle in old age, especially in women, sometimes resulting in the fragile bone condition called osteoporosis. Thinning bones and decreasing bone mass can put you at risk for falls that can easily result in broken bones. Be sure to talk with your physician about what you can do to prevent osteoporosis and falls.
While a healthy diet and regular exercise can keep your heart healthy, it may become slightly enlarged, your heart rate may lower, and the walls of the heart may thicken.
Getting older can cause changes in your reflexes and even your senses. While dementia is not a normal consequence of old age, it is common for people to experience some slight forgetfulness as they get older. Cells in the brain and nerves can be damaged by the formation of plaques and tangles, abnormalities that could eventually lead to dementia.
As you age, your digestive tract becomes more firm and rigid, and doesn't contract as often. This change can lead to problems such as constipation, stomach pain, and feelings of nausea; a better diet can help.
You may notice that your vision and hearing aren't quite as sharp as they once were. You may start to lose your sense of taste -- flavors may not seem as distinct to you. Your senses of smell and touch may also weaken. Your body is taking longer to react and needs more to stimulate it.
The tough enamel that protects your teeth from decay can start to wear away over the years, leaving you susceptible to cavities. Gum disease is also a concern for older adults. Good dental hygiene can protect your teeth and gums. Dry mouth, which is a common side effect of many medications that seniors take, may also be a problem.
With old age, your skin loses its elasticity and may start to sag and wrinkle. However, the more you protected your skin from sun damage and smoking when you were younger, the better your skin will look as you get older. Start protecting your skin now to prevent further damage, as well as skin cancer.
After menopause, when menstruation stops, many women experience physical changes like a loss of vaginal lubrication. Men may experience erectile dysfunction. Fortunately, both problems can be easily treated.
Here are some healthy aging tips that are good advice at any stage of life
Stay physically active with regular exercise: Stay socially active with friends and family and within your community.
Don't neglect yourself: Regular check-ups with your doctor, dentist, and optometrist are even more important now.
Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet: Dump the junk food in favor of fiber-rich, low-fat, and low-cholesterol eating.
Limit alcohol consumption and cut out smoking.
Take all medications as directed by your doctor.
Get the sleep that your body needs.
Finally, taking care of your physical self is vital, but it's important that you tend to your emotional health as well. Reap the rewards of your long life, and enjoy each and every day. Now is the time to savor good health and happiness.