Edmontonians discuss aging well during Seniors’ Week
In recognition of Seniors’ Week 2021, Age Friendly Edmonton hosted a series of virtual Lunch ‘n’ Learns, bringing together local thought leaders, changemakers, community members, and older Edmontonians to discuss what it means to age well, and how we can make this goal a reality for all older adults.
The sessions addressed the topics of aging in place, ageism, and the health benefits of volunteering in our older years. The conversations revealed that there are things we can do—both individually and societally—to improve health outcomes as we age.
As individuals, being proactive is key to aging well. It’s important to recognize that as we age, our needs may change. In her talk on aging in place, which kicked off the Lunch ‘n’ Learn series, Jolyn Hall of Edmonton55 discussed the importance of having aging in place plans ready, and for all people to consider their medical needs, home needs, and community needs—both now and into the future.
“[Aging in place] isn't something that just magically happens,” says Jolyn. “It does take planning, it does take work. But, if you're willing to put in that time and energy to set up your living environment, or find the right place to age, aging in place can be a very successful piece of your aging well journey.”
Jolyn’s tips for aging well include things like modifying home environments (even small tweaks such as lever facets instead of traditional knobs can make a big difference), understanding community resources and services that can help in an emergency, staying socially connected, and securing reliable transportation by understanding LRT/bus routes, or using transportation services like Drive Happiness.
“When it comes to aging in place, I just want you to start planning,” says Jolyn. “It's not going to happen magically. You have to do research, you have to have a plan...a plan A, plan B, and plan C as your health changes.”
Additionally, the discussions addressed societal challenges and aging. In Wednesday’s session on ageism, speakers discussed their experiences around aging, both positive and negative. Ageism—discrimination based on age—impacts how society values older adults and how older adults evaluate themselves. Ageism is a prevalent (and often normalized) form of discrimination around the globe, and a key barrier to aging well.
A recent poll asked 1,500 older Canadians about their experiences with ageism. “41 per cent reported that they had been ignored, or treated as if they're invisible,” says University of Alberta Psychology Professor Dr. Sheree Kwong See. “More than a third believed that people assumed they had nothing to contribute. And about a quarter said they believed other people thought that they were incompetent.”
Negative perceptions of growing older curtail our imaginations around what aging can look like, thereby affecting out health. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, simply adopting a positive mindset toward growing older can extend our lifespans by 7.5 years!
To this end, speakers addressed the importance of cultivating hobbies and interests, volunteering, and keeping connected to promote health.
“I’m a poet and an artist,” says former Edmonton poet laureate, Alice Major. “And creating something—making something—can be a real way of managing the experience of growing older. Not necessarily poems, but I'll make a video, tell a story, compose a song, make a quilt...something that records your life, makes your life tangible to yourself and to others around you.”
Older Edmontonians also find great meaning through volunteering, something that was highlighted in Friday’s Lunch ‘n’ Learn session. Wilma, a volunteer with Sage Seniors Association, provides routine wellness calls for other older adults. “I look forward to them—my people—and they tell me they look forward to my calls. And that makes me feel so special...I strongly urge anyone who is looking for an opportunity to give back to the community while making new friends to explore the options out there.”
Want to learn more?
Age Friendly Edmonton seeks to spark conversations and generate awareness around healthy aging. You can view full Lunch ‘n’ Learn sessions on Age Friendly Edmonton’s Facebook page. Links to the recordings are listed below.
1) Ways to Succeed in Aging in Place
2) Ageism and Aging: Upsides-Downsides
3) Building Connections in a Post-COVID World