When did “seniors” become a minority group? After all, seniors are simply older adults. A minority group is defined as “a subordinate group whose members have significantly less control or power over their lives than members of a dominant or majority group.”
I’m talking about ageism because it’s critical to our own health and well-being. We all need a major attitude shift about getting older, and we seniors are just as guilty as our younger counterparts. Elders and disabled people are not valued. Ageism is born from fear of getting old. Old age is not interesting, until you get there.
Fact: 80 per cent of the world’s seniors live in low- to middle-income countries. A quote from the United Nations website: “The 2016 United Nations International Day of Older Persons (UNIDOP) took a stand against ageism by drawing attention to and challenging negative stereotypes and misconceptions about older persons and aging.
“Ageism is a widely prevalent and prejudicial attitude that stems from the assumption that age discrimination, and sometimes neglect and abuse of older persons is a social norm and therefore, acceptable. It is a reality in some form in all societies, and finds expression in individuals’ attitudes, institutional and policy practices, as well as media representation that devalue and exclude older persons. In 2014, Governments around the world adopted a resolution at the Economic and Social Council that recognized ageism as “the common source of, the justification for and the driving force behind age discrimination.
“Such discrimination shapes how older persons are treated and perceived by their societies, including in medical settings and workplaces, creating environments that limit older persons’ potential and impact their health and well-being. The failure to tackle ageism undermines older persons’ rights and hinders their contributions to social, economic, cultural and political life.”
I too am guilty of saying things like, “You look so young for your age,” or, “I’m having a senior moment.” Such comments feed the notion that getting older is bad. This may be why only a small percentage of our seniors population use seniors’ centres. Each one of us are agents of change. When we encounter ageist comments and jokes, we can respectfully point out the results created by this negative mindset.
Today’s seniors are more engaged and healthy, which extends our lifespans by decades. And make no mistake, we will all eventually deep-age and die. There is a saying, “Add life to years, not years to life.” If you agree with this, you need to plan your end of life. Write down your wishes or discuss them with your loved ones.
Do yourself a favour by checking out the “Fountain of Health,” which features five areas (details at fountainofhealth.ca). It’s interesting that attitude is so important. Positivity is power. In order of priority: attitude, social engagement, physical activity, learning/brain challenges, and mental health.
It’s B.C. Seniors Week. If we truly want to age-in-place, let’s celebrate our longevity by following this recipe for success.
ML Burke retired from the health sector to work on issues such as affordable housing. She sits on the Delta Seniors Planning Team and the BC Seniors Advocate’s Council of Advisors.