April 8, 2010

CANADA: Plan now for active aging

. VICTORIA, British Columbia / Times Colonist / Health / Seniors / April 8, 2010 Later years have much to offer, as long as you recognize your limitations By Jim Gibson, Times Colonist Meet Lyndsay Green Author of "You Could Live A Long Time: Are You Ready? Lyndsay Green is a pioneering sociologist and researcher who has spent her career helping people use communications technologies for learning. Motivated by her aging parents and family, she has now turned her research skills and knowledge of new technologies to find out what the baby boom generation should be doing to ensure they have a successful old age. Growing old is a baby boomer's biggest fear, according to writer and educational technology consultant Lyndsay Green, herself a boomer. Boomers had better get over it or face an emotionally impoverished old age, warns the author of You Could Live a Long Time: Are You Ready? Start planning now for enjoyable later years, says Green, whose own planning already involves moving to Victoria from Toronto and taking out a yacht club membership. What's holding many boomers back is the absence of models for positive aging. The cohort, which coined the phrase "don't trust anyone over 30," have spent their lives cut off from the positive experiences of aging. "We started with an attitude of distrust of older people and I think we have been dismissive toward older people," Green says. "We're becoming what we distrusted and dismissed," she adds. Green hadn't given much thought to her own aging until after three years of dealing with various family members in extended care facilities. Suddenly, it hit her. "I, myself, am going to age." People now are living longer and longer, according to Green, who has a graduate degree in sociology. She cites two studies applying to the cohort just ahead of the boomers: Any male or female already 65 can expect to live to over 80. If they are married, one of the partners will live into their 90s. Few boomers look ahead positively to their later years. Instead, Green says, they see aging in terms of losses -- diminishing looks, mental acuity, status and physical prowess. There are benefits with aging, such as less stress and more emotional control, Green says. Boomers don't see these, as they lack positive models, something she hopes her book rectifies in part. Green talked to 40 "elders," ages 75 to 103, across the country on what mattered to them in later life. Surprisingly, money was not near the top. It's important, but boomers should focus on emotional rather than just financial planning for their later years. They should be developing relationships now that will sustain them as they age. "We've got to work on that," she says. Further, boomers should plan now on "staying engaged" by continuing some form of work. It need not be paid work. Her elders warned that pride or ego can thwart contentment in later years. If you want to remain independent in your own home, then be prepared to ask for outside help. If you need a hearing aid, wear one, she says. The alternative is, for example, not hearing a truck barrelling down on you, or having people think you're demented instead of hard of hearing, Green says. Take care of your body. Recognize its limitations as you age. Accept that you can't race an 18-year-old down a ski hill as you once could. But you can still ski, she says. [rc] © Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist