Today I think, this is the first time I have not welcomed a birthday. But is it not better than having no birthday, not being here to feel fear of aging? I think about the promising young man, damaged in an accident, who will not live the life he believed would be his. I sorrow for the young woman who may not live to see her small children grow to independence. The best, the only, service I can do for these and others is to rejoice in the fact of my existence. I am here, still competent to see blossoms on trees, feel sun or rain upon my skin, observe wasps amongst the raspberries, a dragonfly flitting, fleet as my life. I am still here to watch starlings on the lawn or listen to the cry of seabirds riding in the ocean of air. I am still here to smell fresh earth as life awakens in springtime, and the fragrance of lilacs or lilies. This gesture to appreciate the life I have been blessed with is perhaps the only gift that I can bring to this world; a profound sense of gratitude that I am here, in this place, at this time, out of all the universe, a fragile moment carved out of eternity.
These were comments made on a thread discussing proposals to eliminate special discounts for seniors.
1.Hmmm, how am I supposed to get wealthier?
2. I wouldn’t get rid of transit cost breaks, as you actually want to get ageing drivers off the roads.
3. It is all part of the tendency to pit one group of Canadians against another. Non-union workers against unionized ones, rural against urban, young against old. “They” forget that not only will we all become older, but that we all have family members and friends in all age groups. Children will not hate their parents for ageing and becoming an alleged “drain” on the system, because they know that those same parents were the ones who cared for them and paid for the advantages that they will enjoy as they too become older.
4. It gets worse if even if you have a decent pension it may not be indexed. You just have to hope that you don’t outlive your money.
5Just looking at a table that outlines how you have to use up money in RRIFs. The government is bound and determined to get its pound of flesh from you, and the amount increases steadily the older you get. So even those who have been able to save through the medium of RRSPs, and might be considered relatively well to do, face a future where there is really no way to increase your wealth unless you were already truly wealthy. I hate to think what the future holds for those among us who haven’t got even a minimum amount saved.
6. I’d actually like to know more about the statistics that are being used. I’d like a definition of “senior”. Because nearly all the senior citizens are actually not “baby boomers” – they are on their way, but so far only the first couple of years worth of the cohort have retired. I suspect that this cohort is NOT as well off as their parents, because many of us were starting careers just as the post war boom was ending and the financial changes wrought by Reagan and Thatcher were about to hit. We were slammed by the major inflation caused by the Arab oil embargo in the early 70s, from which I bet the middle class has never really recovered – has anyone studied this? Certainly in my family we are not nearly as well off as the parents were at their retirement.
7. I asked about the definition of “senior” because the assumption seems to be that the generations of seniors grow ever richer, but I don’t think the policymakers are really looking closely enough at the boomer generation – they seem to think this generation is the wealthiest ever, but in fact I think it must have been the generation preceding us, and the policymakers are talking about changing things NOW, just as a possibly less wealthy generation begins to retire. These policymakers and their predecessors have known for decades that there would be a bump in the population of old people. Just as they had to build more schools to accommodate them when they were children, they will have to find sensible and humane ways to accommodate that same population as it ages. It is a temporary plight, and there are fewer old folk in the cohort than there were children, because we are dying off at the usual rate. They could have created a special fund that would now be available to help with such things as affordable cohousing, better access to geriatric medicine, accessible public transportation – all things, by the way, that would benefit the entire population. But no, the governments of the day just took that extra bump in tax revenue, from the large working cohort and… well, what did they do with it?
A recent birthday prompted a conversation about age. A friend is in total denial about aging, “No” she says, “you’re not old!” As though that were a terrible thing. Being, I would say, on the cusp of old age (but vigorous, not frail) I feel that there is some merit in having lived so long and I no longer want to deny the fact. The problem is partly one of semantics. Nowadays we would not say that a thirty-five year old is middle aged, although in fact they are. Yet there is a big difference between the youth of one who is in their mid-thirties, and one who is, say, nineteen or twenty. Just as the word “tween” has come to describe that awkward period where a child is not yet a youth, but certainly not like a seven or eight year old child, we need words to describe the time between young adult and middle age, and the time between middle age and old age.
As a child I remember observing the older people in my community. I was very aware of the two kinds of elders who lived amongst us. There were the vigorous ones, with strong voices, who fully participated in life. Then there were the frail ones. I understood that when a vigorous elder moved into the frail category, they would soon die. This was in the mid twentieth century when the frail did not survive as long as perhaps they do today. One day a man or woman was hale, the next their voices began to quaver and their bodies seemed to shrink, and a few weeks or months later they were gone.