Have you heard about the ‘silver tsunami’? (‘Silver tsunami’ debunked by advocate, Feb. 10, 2016).
Do you believe that dementia is an inevitable part of getting older? Do you think that moving to a residential care facility is inevitable?
These and other misconceptions about seniors were debunked by Isobel Mackenzie at last month’s meeting of the White Rock/ South Surrey chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women. As seniors advocate for B.C., Mackenzie monitors seniors’ services and issues and makes recommendations to government and service providers to address systemic issues.
Mackenzie shared interesting statistics that debunk many of the myths about seniors and aging. In B.C., 850,000 seniors represents only 17 per cent of the population. If the growth until 2031 is as projected, the figure will rise to 24 per cent. Hardly a tsunami!
Contrary to popular belief, most seniors do not live in residential care but continue to live independently, with 74 per cent over age 85 living independently.
The fear of dementia is another unsupported myth, according to statistics, indicating 80 per cent of people over 85 live without this diagnosis.
Another good news story is that the life expectancy of those living in B.C., 83, is the highest in Canada; higher than the U.S., Sweden and the U.K. Survey results show we have reported good habits that promote good health in many areas – such as not smoking, frequent walking and social participation. However, one area for improvement is in our consumption of fruits and vegetables, with only 36.5 per cent of those over 65 having the suggested five servings per day.
Among seniors that require home support, 97 per cent have an unpaid caregiver and 53 per cent of these fit the clinical program of someone who would qualify for residential care. This makes the stress on unpaid caregivers looking after family members or friends a concern. The rate of caregivers in distress in B.C. is reported at 29 per cent, the highest in Canada.
Another concern is the over-prescribing of prescription drugs for those in residential care. A B.C. study showed that 32.4 per cent of residents in care were prescribed antipsychotics without a diagnosis of psychosis – the highest rate in Canada.
Mackenzie touched on the topic of ‘ageism’ and how seniors are often discriminated against based on age.
In debunking some of the common myths about aging, these prejudicial attitudes may be challenged and the valuable contributions of older adults in our society will be recognized and celebrated.
Diane Salter-Menzo, CFUW vice-president.
This letter was originally attributed to the wrong author.