Value our seniors

It’s not news that we live in an aging society. In Canada, according to the 2011 census, the median age was 39.9 years compared to 26.2 years in 1971.
With our ability to treat and cure diseases, we’ve made it possible for people to live longer lives. Modern medicine has made life better, so the claim is, but the question often is posed: has it made us better.
We’ve heard for some time from government about the struggles with the increasing burden of health-care costs and of caring for our aged. Atlantic Canada always has suffered the effects of its youth fleeing west to find employment and opportunity—the hemorrhaging that as of yet remains unstopped—and so the age of those left behind continues to increase dramatically.
I recently watched a documentary on the plight of those in their last years of life who have no family; those who have seen most of their friends pass away.
One woman of 96 years spent her days tearing up junk mail into smaller and smaller pieces to put out with the trash—a task she focused on to, in her words, “keep from going mad.”
The film examined the positive effects of seniors having daily access to activities and community, and the results were extremely positive.
We don’t always value those in the generation older than our own; we forget the contribution they gave when Canada was at war, we forget the part they played in building the community they are still a part of.
It is said that we can measure the soul of society in how it cares for those who can’t care for him/herself.
I was fortunate to be witness to the excellent day hospital program that was offered at what I always will call La Verendrye General in Fort Frances; the hospital where my tonsils were removed and my appendix, and where I was cared for when I had an allergic reaction to penicillin and a host of emergencies resulting from falls from horses.
And where I delivered two of my four babies.
The day hospital program was a joyful place where laughter and frivolity were regular components—sometimes with hearty outbursts.
La Verendrye provided a space three days a week for those who needed it; that allowed these sometimes lonely and marginalized residents a place to feel a part of something.
To feel connected to others, a place to go that gave their days value. That gave them conversation and laughter, and let them know they weren’t forgotten; that their lives had value and meaning.
This program spoke to the fundamental need in all of us: to belong.
That program is gone, but thankfully I’m told Rainycrest has taken up the reins and offers a day out once a week for those who need to feel a sense of community, to connect with others.
In a society that worships youth and shiny new things, a society that has us discarding anything that is broken, I wonder about those who live alone; those who are often trapped when winter throws her weight around—who have no one coming to their door to inquire about their well-being.
How many in our own neighbourhoods experience that kind of loneliness? We celebrate youth and its inherent madness with an unrivaled fervour. Anti-aging procedures are paramount in our pursuits.
True, I don’t want to lose my ability to carry firewood (though on some days I would like to lose the “need” to carry said firewood). I don’t want to lose my ability to think clearly and record my thoughts and musings in some useful form.
But aging is as natural as breathing, and I feel a certain pride comes as I move closer to understanding what it’s all about.
I think it is up to us to speak for those who are in need in our communities, for those who are alone. And we must be sure that programs that care for them remain supported and available.