Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The Best Place to Age

Where do you think the best place to age is? While there are many articles on the best country or city to age in, the reality is if you have spent your life somewhere and have roots and family in a certain city, you are not going to move regardless of how rosy a picture someone paints of another place. I'm really talking about the best setting......... home, retirement home, long-term care home... that sort of thing.
We hear a lot lately about the benefits of  'aging in place' and the theory that people are best off staying in their homes' with any necessary supports which can be increased as their care needs change rather than relocating them to a care home. Indeed, there are many resistant to relocating who will do anything they can to stay in their own homes. And while the adage 'there is no place like home' is one most believe, for a senior with care needs, this, in fact, may not be the case. I do think that many people may have a picture of a senior care home from the past that is not today's reality. I also think that what works for some, does not work for others. And while we would all like to believe that home is the best place, we should not lose sight of the seniors who are isolated, with no family visiting and no social stimulation for whom this is not a good option. Staying home is all they know, but not necessarily the best place for them to age.
Cleary, one's financial situation has a lot to do with how easy 'aging in place' is. There is most definitely a lack publicly funded resources to assist all seniors living in their own homes, as completely as most need. The more one can afford, the more private services one can employ but this does not negate the fact that even with enough supports, one may not be in the best place to age. In terms of public funding - there is home care and long-term care but really nothing in between (e.g. funded retirement homes) and for seniors that don't fall on either end of the spectrum of care needs, there is a big black hole where services should be.
With the 'silver tsunami' approaching, the notion of a spectrum of public funding to meet the needs of different levels of care is something we should all be advocating for. That issue aside, for those who do have the means to give them choices, I would encourage the exploration of options when the time comes or even a bit before. There are many private services and housing available for many different budgets, that will enable the person to be independent, socially stimulated and receive some care which may be far more beneficial than staying in one's own home alone.
As time passes, I'm certain that we will start hearing about different and innovative types of senior living that will hopefully ensure that we receive a more targeted type of senior care. For now though, there are some choices and really it's opening your mind up to options that will ensure you age well in the best place for you.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Taboo topics

There are a few age related topics that people seem to avoid at all costs with those they love. Health, Financial Planning, Advanced Care Planning and End of Life issues are topics few want to raise and even fewer want to talk about. Yet for older adults, these are important to discuss with your family while you are still healthy and can easily clarify what you want when the time comes. I have done many lectures on planning ahead, for both seniors and children of seniors. The common theme between both groups is the fear of raising what are often taboo subjects. It seems that both parties are afraid of a negative reaction from the other one. I do wonder though, if its a fear of a reaction or if neither knows how to start a conversation like this.
Here is the reality though - not talking about it doesn't make the worries go away - and doesn't make a difficult situation any better. For regular readers of our blog, you will know that I am a strong believer in raising issues like future planning well before it's necessary. It gives one time to discuss and understand possible scenarios and options and is far better than having to make a decision in a crisis when options become very limited. It gives the control of one's destiny to the elder person and allows everyone to cope better if the time comes when decisions have to be made.
So, how do you raise your concerns and start a conversation?
We all know of someone who ended up in a hosptial in a crisis situation with their family scrambling to make decisions. The older we are, the more people we know in this situation. And it gets us thinking. What if that were me? And maybe, that is a good place to start. But perhaps, if you are truly concerned about a negative reaction, start slowly. Don't inundate the other person with a million questions and scenarios. Test the waters first but keep in mind that there are many issues to discuss and priorities include the exisistence of a will and power of attorney, financial planning, care planning and what they want when they are close to the end of life. I'm certain with the recent news coverage and conversations about physician-assisted death, many will be willing to weigh in on their opinion for themselves and others on this topic. And this too may provide an entry into the whole topic of care planning itself.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Senior Playgrounds

One of our recent social media posts (March 1, 2016 - Playgrounds for Seniors has generated a fair bit of organic interest. It seems from the comments that people think its a great idea and that these sorts of structures are popular in parts of Europe. I have actually seen them in a few places as part of public parks for everyone to use and recall seeing the idea pitched a couple of years ago on Dragon's Den for the North American market. The equipment is very similar to many circuit training machines in gyms across the country. The drawback of such equipment out in the open is the maintenance that would be required, the risk of vandalism, the liability if someone injures themselves and the weather conditions in various locations. But, seeing them in action yields many positives that may actually outweigh the negatives. Firstly, it would be equipment that can be used by anyone, not just seniors and not just young people. It would definitely encourage physical fitness in those who visit the area it is placed in without the burden of costs that may be prohibitive for some. It encourages interaction of people in the community. And, if placed in areas where many seniors populate, may be a way to encourage 'active aging'. As we see more and more in the media about 'Age-Friendly Communities' we may want to 'think outside of our North American conservative box' and look at examples in other parts of the world where they have managed quite well to create healthy and integrative environments for all populations. Many European countries have found innovative ways of caring for their elderly that we are only just starting to look at - Senior Co-housing is one such model, but there are others which will hopefully be viewed as examples worth considering for Canadian seniors. I am certain that beyond housing, there are also models that encourage healthy living and healthy aging within specific communities. It would seem that having playgrounds in public parks is one such way to accomplish this. I would love to see playgrounds for seniors all over Canada. As George Bernard Shaw penned: "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing".