In many communities across North America June is considered “Seniors Month,” an opportunity to recognize, thank and pay homage to the people who have helped build our country, shaping the past and thereby contributing to our future. In the province of Ontario, Canada (for example) the theme of this year’s Seniors Month is: “Aging Strong – Respect and Protect Seniors.” This slogan, according to the Government of Ontario’s website, is meant to both honor “the importance of a seniors’ valued experience and independence as they age, while (also) celebrating their many contributions … and protecting what matters most to them.” There’s a universal truth to this statement that resonates strongly for those of us who make up the Amintro team – that is – the crucial importance of respecting our elders. Some countries, (perhaps we’ll explore this in a later blog) do a better job of honouring and respecting their senior population than we do in North America but Seniors Month is a chance to rectify that!
Seniors Month is an opportunity for us to explore what it means to be a “senior.”
We’ve talked before about what age constitutes admittance into the “senior generation” and we know that it varies widely. According to some media, calling anyone from as low as the age of 45+ means being a part of the senior generation. In Canada, Zoomer Media calls those aged 45+ their “most powerful audience,” comprised of over 16 million people. Our own Amintro website caters to those who are 50+ and recently, we featured the AAIM Manitoba Games for Seniors which aims to include those who are 55+. Most governments around the world hold the “senior line” at 65+ which tends to be when government social benefit plans like social security, CPP, Retirement Allowance or Medicaid (and others – depending on where you live) kick in. Finally, many retailers and restaurants also choose an arbitrary age at which they offer discounts to those they define as seniors. So, while it is clear that there seems to be no “set” age for becoming a senior, here are some things we do know about mature adults in our communities:
- Generally, we are living longer and healthier lives than ever before.
- We are a formidable force when it comes to decision-making in politics and in influencing purchasing power. Smart retailers are beginning to recognize, and specifically market to seniors.
- The range of programs, services and facilities catering to seniors has grown exponentially and being a senior is no longer necessarily considered being “old.”
- Despite the good news – seniors as a population do experience more illness and/or injury than most other age groups and the demands on various systems including health care and accessibility programs must adapt to the times.
- In Canada, by 2036 it is anticipated that our senior population will double in size!
- In America, the rise in population of elder citizens is referred to as “The Graying of America” and it’s anticipated that by 2035 seniors will outnumber children.
- Japan already has the worlds’ oldest population – with more than one in four people over the age of 65.
- An entire industry is growing, around the globe, catering to seniors. Organizations that provide elder care for seniors who choose to age in place, downsizing and personal organization companies that help seniors transition to retirement housing and goodwill and non-profits who provide “meals on wheels” type programming for vulnerable seniors are just a few examples.
- “Age-friendly” communities are a concept that is gaining relevancy.
- Dementia villages and the idea of caring for seniors with Alzheimer’s in a different way are also gaining in popularity. (*The Butterfly Household Model is just one example.)
The whole concept of recognizing seniors originally came from WHO, the World Health Organization, who designated August 21st, 1991 as the first World Seniors Day. WHO then proclaimed that going forward, the day would be celebrated annually. According to WHO, the main purpose of a designated day is to “raise awareness of the condition of older people and to support them through the aging process.” WHO speaks also to the importance of celebrating and thanking seniors for their contributions, skills and knowledge and for many countries around the world, dedicating not just this day in August, but the entire month of June, to honouring seniors is their way of doing so. Countries like Ireland, Australia, India, Canada, the US, South Africa and the United Kingdom all participate. If you’re looking for suggestions on how to honor the senior in your life or, you’re a senior and want to share a special moment in June celebrating with friends, consider these suggestions:
- Volunteer in your community by doing chores for a senior. Cut the grass, trim the trees – do the “hard to reach” heavy lifting for your neighbor.
- Volunteer with a local organization that delivers meals to seniors. Often, it’s “junior seniors” who are mobile and still drive that make great visiting companions for older and perhaps more vulnerable seniors.
- Go on a picnic and enjoy the outdoors with a senior.
- Visit a botanical gardens or a go for a hike.
- Plan an activity that meets mobility needs. With “seniors” ranging in age from 45+ to 95+ there is an entire range of things to do from sedentary to zip-lining!
- Make a nice meal and celebrate together as a family.
- Take a break from technology to be present with senior loved ones or, take the time to teach a senior how to use technology to their advantage. FaceTime for example is a great way to stay in touch.
- Review our past blogs for suggestions!
In short, June is the ideal month to celebrate “all things senior.” Whatever your age, whatever your stage of mobility and fitness and wherever your interests lay, there are no shortage of ways to honor and celebrate who you are and all that you have contributed to your family and your community. Our views of aging are changing and the Canadian theme of “Aging Strong” echoes widely around the world. Being a “senior” doesn’t mean being “old” anymore so grab a friend and celebrate “Seniorhood!”
Written by Sheralyn Roman