Over the last few weeks, researchers have discovered a natural yet nasty phenomenon leading to troubles in the elderly. The reports focus on two very different parts of our bodies, the immune system and the microbial population in our guts. Though both studies were conducted in mice, the results unveil an inconvenient reality we may all face as we get older.
The complexity of ageing arises because, as we age, we are more likely to have more than one illness and to take more than one medication. And as we age, the illnesses that we have are more likely to restrict how we live -- not just outright disability, but in our moving more slowly, or taking care in where we walk, or what we wear or where we go.
The beginning of a new year and the accompanying reflections of what the future holds is the perfect time to tell family and friends your healthcare preferences in case one day you are unable to speak for yourself. This is called advance care planning and it is good to do for your peace of mind and for your loved ones too.
Seniors are the most significantly affected. In Canada, seniors represent 15 per cent of our population, yet account for up to 40 per cent of all influenza infections, the majority of all hospitalizations and deaths from influenza. Why? Because seniors are more likely to be frail and have chronic medical conditions that put them at high risk for influenza and its complications.
Of the $220 billion spent on health care annually in Canada, 45 per cent is spent on those over 65 years old, although they only represent 15 per cent of the population. It's time we improved the quality and quantity of care delivered for frail Canadians - and improve the health system for everyone in the process.
Let's start with some basic numbers. Excellent data from Canada indicates that eight per cent of people over the age of 65 will be diagnosed with dementia, and about two-thirds of those will have Alzheimer's disease. The risk of developing Alzheimer's disease doubles for every five years of life beyond age 65, making older age one of the most significant and predictable risk factors.
I've got aging on my mind right now. Last Spring I celebrated a not insignificant birthday. Who am I kidding? They're all significant now. A few months ago I watched Isabel Allende's Ted Talk on living passionately at 71. It really inspired me. I've done a lot of thinking about age and aging since, and I've come to the following conclusions.
Those who advocate for a vegetarian diet love to point out that vegetarians live longer and have a markedly lower risk of many common diseases, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes, than meat-eaters do. It's possible to enjoy many of the advantages of a vegetarian diet without completely swearing off meat and other animal foods.
Canada is experiencing a demographic shift. Baby boomers, currently the largest generation, are rapidly reaching retirement age. By 2021, 17.8 per cent of the total Canadian population will be over 65 - that's nearly seven million people. By 2041, that number is expected to jump to 9.7 million, or 22.6 per cent.
In a country as diverse and varied as Canada, such a per capita funding model creates winners and losers. For provinces with flourishing economies and/or younger populations, the formula may be a welcome one. But for many provinces and territories, this funding formula fails to recognize and accommodate their particular challenges and needs.
Looking at my greying hair at least once a day, I stopped seeing it like I used to -- as a sign of defeat -- but more like acquiring a loyalty to my age. I started to accept the mantle of middle-aged maturity toward which this "crown" motivated me. It showed up mostly (surprisingly) in my relationships with other women.