We are on the doorstep of an aging boom in a society that focuses on youth. Are we prepared to acknowledge our own aging and the aging of others close to us in a realistic way or will we deny that aging is taking place?
The human lifespan has increased with improvements in healthcare and social conditions. As of 2003, Canadians could expect to live on average of 79.8 years. By the time the aging boom is levelling off in 2041, 23% of Canadians will be over 65 years of age. We may live within a society focused on youth but this focus is likely to shift as the proportion of older adults increases. While this may help some of us to acknowledge we are among the older part of the population, it will not necessarily influence to a sufficient degree, those who deny that they are getting older.
Acknowledging that we are aging is a personal process. Changing abilities, limitations in physical functioning and shifts of interest signal that the body is getting older. We may give into this with a sense of resignation, we may deny it altogether, or we can decide to manage our lives differently to get the most out of the third age.
Caregivers have a stewardship role on behalf of those they support. This role cannot be exercised fully if the caregiver is in denial about his/her own aging. As a result of denial:
- The caregiver will not be prepared for any significant change in his/her care-giving capacity due to the aging process.
- The caregiver may avoid transition planning that acknowledges the aging of the individuals being supported.
- The lack of planning, coupled with the inevitable aging of both the caregiver and the supported individual, may result in an inability to respond to a crisis situation; the result may be circumstances where Quality of Life is compromised.
The denial of aging is sometimes found within care-giving organizations when the culture is one of ignoring that aging of clientele requires new skill sets for staff and fluid access to resources for older adults. The Ontario Partnership is working to ensure that older adults with a developmental disability have equal access to the full continuum of services and programs available to all Ontario seniors. However, not all service providers are currently of like mind on this issue. In some cases, individual caregivers and organizations equate aging with more of the same support and believe that the seniors service system is only a collection of long term care homes. Unfortunately, this perception mitigates against some caregivers and care-giving organizations from supporting older adults with a developmental disability to access appropriate services for older adults.
The Ontario Partnership is interested, not in promulgating any ideology, but in providing forums where all players may engage in dialogue and learning.