Younger generation define seniors by stereotypes

Canada is aging, along with the rest of the world. According to demographic projections, by the year 2020, 25 per cent of Canadians will be seniors, which means one out of every four individuals is going to be above 65 years of age.

Padmaja Genesh, who earned a bachelor of medicine a surgery degree in India and a bachelor of arts degree in gerontology from Laurentian University in Ontario. Her experience includes several years of teaching and work with health-care agencies and health clinics. She has been a board member of Red Deer Golden Circle and has been a Red Deer resident for the past six years.

Canada is aging, along with the rest of the world. According to demographic projections, by the year 2020, 25 per cent of Canadians will be seniors, which means one out of every four individuals is going to be above 65 years of age.

A more interesting, but less known, fact is that the 65-plus population is the most diverse segment of the population. If we compare any two 65-year-old individuals, we will see that they are similar only in age, but different in all other aspects such as health, education, socio-economic status, functional capability and so on.

Currently, there are more than 8,000 seniors living in Red Deer, and this number is bound to increase, thanks to the increase in longevity.

Although it is primarily this segment of population that I want to address, I do wish to connect with individuals who work with or care for seniors. I also want to reach all adults who believe that they too are aging (which is essentially true) and also all young individuals who believe that they have nothing in common with seniors (which is essentially false).

The introductory words of May Sarton in her novel As We Are Now point to the universal relevance of the phenomenon of ageing: “As you are now, so once was I.”

There are several misconceptions in our society about aging and older individuals. An informal study conducted among elementary school students revealed that children have two different stereotypic impressions about older individuals. One is a positive stereotype of an eternally loving, infinitely patient, fun-loving and generous grandparent. The other is a negative stereotype of a frail, sad, nursing home resident in poor health.

The majority of the older individuals are somewhere in between.

Young adults too have such stereotypic views about older individuals and many are apprehensive about growing old. This has led to a widening of the gulf between the young and the old, and alienation of the old, both of which are detrimental to everyone’s well-being.

As an individual who has spent six years in Red Deer, studying gerontology (the science of aging) and working with seniors, it is my responsibility to my community to portray a realistic image of older individuals and present an accurate picture of the aging process; hence this fortnightly column.

This column will feature articles on a variety of topics, relevant to seniors.

The purpose of this column is to provide seniors in the community, their families and caregivers with knowledge and resources that will enable all older individuals to have a good quality of life.

The column is also meant to enhance everybody’s understanding of the aging process, eliminate apprehension about the natural process of aging, and thus bridge the gulf between the young and the old, and enable everyone to have a positive experience of aging.

Let us always remember that we are all growing old together, each day of our life.

Please send your comments to padmajaganeshy@yahoo.ca

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