by Deborah Lebaron
The process of aging is different for each person. Genetics, gender, and the lifestyle a person has lived all have an impact on how we age. There are some things we can’t change (genetics, for example) but we do have some control over lifestyle. If a person is lucky enough to be in good health as he or she gets older, aging will probably entail fewer disadvantages than it will for a person in poor health.
As we age, we have less resilience. This means that we bounce back less easily when illness strikes. This, for example, is one of the reasons why doctors recommend flu shots for those over 65, particularly those with chronic conditions.
Once we stop working or reduce our working hours, our financial situations will change. When we rely on pensions, our income is fixed and that probably means readjusting how we spend money. Let me tell you, though, that a person does not instantly lose interest in shopping, whether for books, clothes or gadgets, at the magic age of 65.
There are some financial benefits for seniors. GO fares are reduced; bank fees may be eliminated; Denninger’s (King Street) offers 10% off on Tuesdays. The Ontario Drug Benefit program covers many prescription drugs. Many recreation centres offer reduced rates for seniors. These reductions kick in at different ages: check with each institution individually. It is always worth checking with any service company to see whether there is a reduction for seniors. It may not be much but every bit counts.
For those who want to remain at home as they age, financial assistance is available, in the form of tax relief, when a home is retrofitted with safety/accessibility measures to allow a person to age in place (Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit).
It can be difficult to accept or ask for help. The first time someone stands up to give you a seat on the bus is a watershed moment. A tip for someone who wants to help an older friend or neighbour: offer specific help; don’t just say ‘call me if you need anything’. For example, if you are going grocery shopping, call and offer a ride or say that you will pick up groceries for the person.
All the good advice about lifestyle applies to seniors as much as to anyone else: eat a healthy diet; don’t smoke (or quit/reduce smoking); exercise; and maintain social connections with family and friends.
In the end, death comes to us all. We may wish to avoid thinking about death or discussing death with our families, but it is important to make sure that our families know our wishes when it comes to managing illness and planning funerals. Funerals are like weddings: they can be quite inexpensive or enormously extravagant. Decide what you want and let people know.
Aging provides the opportunity to see what happens to the young people in our lives. It may give us the opportunity to consider our lives and how we live. It gives us time for activities we enjoy.
Life doesn’t stop at age 65, but it does change. We will generally feel better about those changes if we are involved in making the decisions.
Deborah LeBaron has lived in Crown Point for eighteen years and contributes to The Point as a writer and volunteer.