1 October was the International Day of Older Persons. This the day that we celebrate and respect the contributions of older persons in our community and indeed in the world community.
Most people know with the increasing advances in death prevention, the percentage of older persons in our community is expected to increase dramatically in the next 40 years. The World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts that the actual number of people aged 60 and over will double in the that time. In fact, they say that more than one in five people will be 60 and over and that by 2050, 80% will be living in low and middle income countries.
That’s all very good, but what is the case here in Australia; in Canberra? The number of older persons is expected to increase pretty much in line with the WHO stats but hey, we’re an affluent society so does that make any difference?
We know that the Council on the Ageing is active in promoting “seniors” issues and anyone who is interested in the lot of older people can find heaps of information on the web. But what do people do about those issues and do the non-seniors really care until they become seniors? Many younger people (and some chronological seniors that I know) are in denial about the issues facing folks when they retire and pass 60.
We know that folks have an income drop and thus a change in lifestyle. We also know that for many the mortgage is paid off so the actual amount of disposable income is fine. But there are some renters whose rent rises but the pension (CSSS or Old Age) doesn’t keep pace. We know that some folks slow down in the lifestyle pace and some suffer intellectual stagnation from social isolation. We know that some face medical issues which inhibit their enjoyment of life.
We also know that staying active physically and intellectually not only prolongs life but increases or maintains the quality of that life.
So really, we know quite a lot about what happens when we join the ranks of the older persons. but why is it that a stigma still exists? Why is it that the Anglo-Celtic among us don’t treat the elders with the same respect that the indigenous and the Asian communities do. Why don’t the Anglos treat the retired folks with the same affection that the southern European communities and the African communities do? I don’t know!
Why do seniors clubs have to have activities to address social isolation and abandonment by families. It is because there are some in our community who are lonely, who are isolated, who are feeling under-appreciated after a lifetime of service to the community. It is because there is a gathering of like minded people who gather for fellowship and companionship of their peers and have common interests.
Seniors clubs don’t have to be baby minding centres for old wrinklies. They don’t have to be places where you can sit in the sun with a rug over your lap and wait, and wait.
My seniors’ club, the Tuggeranong 55 Plus Club in Greenway, prides itself in being a stimulating centre of activities designed to enhance quality of life through positive ageing, through activity and mental stimulation. It is not a meeting place for old whingers; that is the province of the Canberra Times Letters column and most community councils.
When people feel valued; that others are interested in what they have to say; that their experience in life is valued; that they can actually learn and share knowledge and experience; they have a purpose in life and they have energy.
So how about you lot under 60 realising that time marches on and one day you will be part of this cohort and there is nothing you can do about it. How about you anticipate being here with us and give us the respect and affection you will want when you are in our cohort.
How about you think about how you enjoy the life style you do because of the contribution the older person gave to you. You will want your children to think that way, eh?
I thought that being old was just the accumulation of frequent flyer points in the transit lounge but when I retired I walked through a door which was rich, interesting, absorbing and exciting. The freedom I now have is refreshing and I can do what I like and when I like. I now do so many things that I just couldn’t think of when I was in the workforce.
My new understanding of what it means go be an older person has given me more than I thought. I have a 66 year old body, which makes Keith Richards look like Hugh Jackman but I still get around faster than most and I am doing things which give me a buzz.
If you younger folks stay in denial, you will not reap the benefits I have when you get here. So, feed your self interest, young people, and think about how you regard the older people in your lives.
Celebrate the occasions like the International Day of Older Persons and celebrate the wrinkly in your family. You will feel good for doing it and you will reap what you sow.