Age is something that comes all too quickly. I say that and yet I haven’t even celebrated my 30th birthday.
I have semi-regular conversations with my mother about how cruel aging can be. She feels the exact same as she did when she was 24. And while we still put 24 candles on her birthday cake, that was four decades ago.
The biggest change she sees in her body is the stiffness and the difficulty associated with simple tasks like standing up after sitting cross-legged on the floor.
My mother says your mind doesn’t age but your body does. She says time comes faster and faster the older you get. I take her word for it because I haven’t reached the point where that notion has become my lived experience. But I believe her, and I know it is coming whether I want it to or not.
There are many things beyond our individual control that add to this phenomenon as well – the changing times.
It feels like as soon as you figure something out, it has already begun to change. From VHS to DVD, from blockbuster to streaming services, it never stops. We are expected to keep up and adapt.
But there are other things as well. A country changes too and the decisions of policy makers and our society’s collective culture around aging has an impact. So many things play a factor in how we age, and I am beginning to wonder... are we ageist?
The poverty rate among the elderly in Canada currently sits around 6.7 per cent, according to the Conference Board of Canada, an applied research organization.
By no means is this the highest poverty rate of seniors in Canada’s history, nor is it the lowest rate either. Canada’s rates are neither the best nor the worst in the world.
The conference board’s study on Canada’s senior poverty rates found, “The Netherlands is the top performer on this indicator, with an elderly poverty rate of 1.7 per cent.”
Whereas “Australia has the highest rate of elderly poverty—nearly 40 per cent of Australian seniors live in relative poverty,” found the research organization when comparing the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.
Like its peers, Canada has a greying population. And that is not likely to change anytime soon, so Canadian leaders need to start getting creative if we want to turn the tide on senior poverty. In fact, Canada has done it before.
“Canada’s elderly poverty rate fell by an extraordinary 25 percentage points—from 36.9 per cent in 1976 to 12.3 per cent in 2010,” the conference board found by compiling Statistics Canada data.
However, through the 90s and to today, trends have been backsliding.
“Canada’s elderly poverty rate increased from 2.9 per cent in the mid-1990s to 6.7 per cent in the late 2000s. The biggest jump occurred in the group of elderly people living alone—most likely widowed women,” the research organization states.
“The increase documented in the Statistics Canada data from 3.9 per cent in 1995 to 10.2 per cent in 2005 and again to 12.3 per cent in 2010 is troubling.”
After 20 years of dramatic reductions, Canada’s elderly poverty rate has been rising. This is a worrisome trend that seems to be on the back-burner of government priorities – and the young should not be looking away.
We need our federal, provincial and even municipal governments to wake up to this reality and start to create legislation to counter age discrimination.