Not All Aging is the Same – Speaker Series Recap

Nov 23, 2017

“People are living longer, and health care costs are rising. But not all the news is gloomy.”

At the Community Foundation for Kingston & Area luncheon on November 13, the capacity crowd was given delicious food to eat and substantial food for thought. Dr. John Muscedere, the Scientific Director of the Canadian Frailty Network, talked about aging societies, recognizing frailty, and ways to deal with frailty. Wendy Griesdorf, a lawyer who specializes in estates and trusts, discussed protection of the vulnerable and the need for crucial conversations within one’s family and social circle.

Canada has more seniors now than children under 15. In the next ten years, the senior population will increase to 10 million people. People are living longer, and health care costs are rising. But not all the news is gloomy. One in 5 people over the age of 85 do not report any significant health issues, and 50% of people over 85 report no functional limitations. Citing a few examples of inspirational seniors, we were reminded that there is often a difference between biological and chronological age. But there are now 1.2 million frail seniors in Canada. These people are in “a state of vulnerability resulting from a loss of function across multiple systems, reducing the ability to cope with normal or minor stresses”. To improve the incidence of frailty, Dr. Muscedere recommended activity, exercise, proper nutrition, vaccinations, and a reduction of social isolation.  He also wants more integration across the health care system, giving us the example of Denmark, where seniors are regularly visited at home by community workers. He advocated a holistic approach to eliminate the medical silos we have now. We could start by implementing electronic medical records so that health care professionals could easily communicate with each other.

When Wendy Griesdorf spoke, she also emphasized the need for communication.  She recalled that before the 1970s, it was not considered proper to talk about private health matters. Phil Donahue and Oprah Winfrey opened the door and gave us permission to have our own crucial conversations. She urged us to talk about what we want and what we are afraid of, now, before we become unable to. Do your friends and family know if you want to be buried or cremated? 90% of us have not decided, or have not told anyone! Acknowledging that these are difficult conversations to have, she encouraged us to take small steps, and add levity in the discussions with our families and our social networks. She concluded by reminding us that we are privileged to be able to make these decisions, giving us more food for thought.

Our Community Foundation’s 2017 Vital Signs Report asked us 4 questions:  Are we planning well? Are we housed well? Are we healthy and well? Are we dying well? Our thanks go to John Muscedere and Wendy Griesdorf for continuing this dialogue and for adding some thoughtful insights to focus further discussion.

By Elspeth Christie

To read our 2017 Vital Signs® report, click here.

 

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