With Valentine's Day just around the corner, Canadians are preparing to be inundated with feel-good stories of love and romance. From the excitement of puppy love to heartwarming tales of soulmates finding each other despite the odds, it seems that none of us are immune to the effects of Cupid's arrow. Despite all this, a common myth still pervades that love, romance and the need for companionship fade over time, and that as we grow older, we become less interested in keeping love alive.
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.
Many drugs prescribed to seniors have either not been adequately studied for this age group or have not been formally approved for the conditions they are being prescribed to treat. They are sometimes prescribed without any evidence they are safe and effective for them, and in some cases, even when they are known to present a possible risk (antipsychotics prescribed to older patients with dementia, for example).
Many employee benefit policies in Canada are null and void past age 65, regardless of a person's employment status. That's because many employer plans still use age 65 as a criterion for ending insurance contracts instead of basing coverage on active versus retired status. It's time for governments to protect employee health benefits for our aging workers.
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.
It has been recognized for many years that people 65 years and older are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu compared with young, healthy adults because our immune defenses become weaker with age. While flu seasons can vary in severity, during most seasons, people 65 years and older bear the greatest burden of severe flu disease.
Remember when your parents scrimped and saved to buy you 17 volumes of the 1973 World Book Encyclopedia? Well it's your turn to return the favour. Look through a local Continuing Education catalogue. Contact a nearby seniors centre. If they don't have a workshop that suits the older adult in your life, tell them what you are interested in and why. Digital Literacy is an essential part of lifelong learning. At any age.
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 2015, Ontario saw a 35% jump in the number of senior citizens visiting food banks. It's a trend Second Harvest sees daily on its delivery routes. Last year, 70% of Second Harvest's agency partners noted that they serve seniors. Some agency partners, like Loyola Arrupe Centre for Seniors (LACS), are built specifically around servicing the needs of this growing and vulnerable population.
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.
Funding home care and long-term care is fast becoming the main challenge of our outdated medicare system -- a system developed in the mid-twentieth century for a young population that mostly required acute care from hospitals and physicians. But that need is changing rapidly with our aging population.
As seniors age, much of their time is freed from the commitments of work and family and they start to look for ways to participate more actively in their communities. As the saying goes, doing good makes you feel good, and the seniors who continue to make a difference every day are true testaments to that.
Soaking up some sun and fresh air can help us feel good, and is a relaxing way to cope with caregiver stress or treatment for serious illness. Just remember that heat and dehydration, especially for children and seniors, can be potentially dangerous. Here's what caregivers need to know to enjoy the sun safely this summer.