Age 65 is generally accepted as the point at which a person becomes a senior citizen. But these days it’s not uncommon to see people continuing to live active, productive lives 25 years or more past that age.
It’s an important consideration as Canada’s seniors demographic becomes an increasingly larger portion of the population. While some fear the greying of the population will create an unmanageable burden on the health-care system, it’s worth remembering that people are not finished being productive members of society once they reach the senior years.
A new HBO documentary shows how vibrant people can remain even past age 90. The documentary, “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast”, explores some of the keys to aging well by focusing on some of Hollywood’s still very active nonagenarians, including Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Dick Van Dyke and Norman Lear.
Van Dyke, at age 91, continues to sing and dance, just as he’s been doing for seven decades, and will appear in the big-screen remake of “Mary Poppins”, due in theatres next year. He advises seniors to “keep moving”, which also happens to be the title of his book on aging published in 2015.
Lear is involved in a reboot of his 1975 TV series “One Day at a Time”, and recently completed a book called “Too Busy to Die”.
Reiner serves as the film’s host, interviewing his friends Brooks and Lear, along with 95-year-old Betty White and 100-year-old Kirk Douglas.
The documentary also features not-so-famous people in the 90-plus club, among them a 101-year-old competitive runner, a 100-year-old pianist and a 98-year-old yoga teacher.
Such people can serve as inspiration that there’s still plenty more living to be done after we become so-called senior citizens. Far from being ready to be put out to pasture, seniors can and often do lead more active, productive lives than many people much younger. Rather than buy into the idea that age 65 means it’s time to step to the sidelines and get out of the way, seniors can continue to lead the way. They possess one valuable attribute that younger folks don’t have – years of experience, and in some cases, many years.
The key, according to the active seniors in the HBO documentary, is to keep yourself healthy and engaged with life. They also stress doing what you love.
Here in Canada, seniors have something new to help them age gracefully. The AGE-WELL Network of Centres of Excellence (http://agewell-nce.ca/), in partnership with the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation, recently launched a national innovation hub to advance policies, practices and services in the field of technology and aging.
The Advancing Policies and Practices in Technology and Aging (APPTA) hub will be based in Fredericton, N.B. New Brunswick has the distinction of being the province with the oldest population in Canada, with seniors making up 19.92 per cent of the population.
Nationally, seniors account for about 15 per cent of the population, but that figure is projected to climb to 20 per cent by 2024 and to 25 per cent by 2063.
While the changing demographic will undoubtedly necessitate measures to deal with a bigger seniors population, it also means the Canadian population will have more life experience than ever before. If efforts are made to help older Canadians age gracefully and remain active, that experience can be a valuable resource.
As the examples in the HBO documentary indicate, there’s still plenty more living to be done past age 65. Seniors Week in Alberta goes June 5-11, and there are plenty of activites going on in Taber and Vauxhall that will show just how much fun and active seniors are in the southern Alberta region.