“Older Canadians are now the fastest growing segment of our population with their numbers expected to double over the next two decades so that by then, one in four Canadians will be older than 65 years of age.” – National Seniors Strategy.
What do we want life to look like in the next 20 years? Is the status quo acceptable, or should today’s baby boomers expect more in their 70’s and 80’s?
We’ve all heard the statistics, but we aren’t talking enough and planning enough to ensure high quality services and quality of life for older adults in the future. Here’s some perspective:
- Today there are almost six million people over 65 in Canada.
- Alberta has more than 500,000 in that age group.
- Each day, more than 1,000 Canadians turn 65.
- Last year, for the first time, there were more people over 65 than under 15.
- If the projections remain accurate, the population over 65 and older will more than double to 11 million by 2050.
- Those 80 years and older will increase from 1.4 million today to 4.2 million.
“As each of us moves into our 60’s and 70’s we need to have a discussion about our expectations. In fact, we need to change the conversation around our expectations when it comes to the quality of life we will expect, or even demand, over the next few decades,” said Gail Hinchliffe, former president, United Active Living. “Gone are the days when an older adult considering a move to a community simply wants their medical needs looked after. While that’s obviously important, people aren’t one dimensional. They have goals, ambitions and interests that will keep them engaged and thriving no matter their age and physical health.”
As you can imagine, the demographic shift is daunting, but it also presents opportunities that ensure our aging population will receive the kind of care and support that they expect and deserve. United’s revolutionary approach is a model for such forward thinking. United doesn’t follow a “one size fits all” approach to programming or lifestyle. They offer independent living, assisted living and memory care, all with complete access to innovative programming, meals and lifestyle choices that are tailored to each resident.
“United’s philosophy reflects this growing demand for more,” said Gail. “We support the whole person, so our communities and programming are developed around a social perspective rather than a medical one. Socialization is key. Friends and family are very important in developing programs. In fact, our programs are based on what the residents want, which creates a rich and varied list of programs and activities that promote the well-being and interests of our residents.”
Canada’s National Seniors Strategy and the World Health Organization recognize that a paradigm shift is needed. The strategies include goals to address ageism and isolation, and create age-friendly living environments – goals that United incorporated into its two communities and its programming from the beginning, and confirm that United’s pioneering approach is on the right track.
“I think none of us wants to think of aging as being a period of decline and isolation, and really it shouldn’t be,” said Gail. “The only reason that it is in many cases is because we put people in a situation where they don’t get what they need to grow and learn. To that end, United’s philosophy marks a shift away from the status quo to support older adults in living a healthy, active, exciting life.”
As Gail notes, the conversation about what our future years should look like should depart from the traditional interpretation of what growing older means. “We need to change the conversation about aging,” advises Gail. “If you or a family member is older, now is the right time to think about the kind of life you would like to live, and how to achieve that. United takes a unique perspective, one that is gaining recognition within the industry as a preferred alternative to traditional housing and social programming. I encourage you to call us, have a tour through one of our communities. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you will see.”
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