Rethinking healthy aging

Being "older" starts earlier than you think
3 MINUTE READ
print story
3 MINUTE READ
print story

Canada’s population is aging — in fact, seniors are the fastest-growing demographic.

But gaps in our health-care and social policies make healthy aging difficult for many Canadians.

RTOERO, together with our members and partners, advocates for the changes to public policy we urgently need to create a Canada where we all can age safely, securely and healthily. One of our key areas of advocacy focus is healthy aging.

Current policies and services often focus narrowly on physical health. Instead, we need to rethink what healthy aging means: ensuring opportunities for active lifestyles, social inclusion, mental health supports, age-friendly communities and strategies for coping with change.

Good health in later years is a lifelong project. Apart from genetics, many conditions influence health profiles. Social determinants, for example — access to housing, food security, adequate income, supportive communities (think accessible transportation, for instance) and meaningful social connections create the foundation of healthy aging.

The impact of biases, inequality and privilege on healthy aging starts well before older age. According to the World Health Organization, “A large proportion (approximately 75 per cent) of the diversity in capacity and circumstance observed in older age is the result of the cumulative impact of advantage and disadvantage.”

Advocacy isn’t easy. Creating real and lasting change needs action, not platitudes. That’s why RTOERO collaborates with like-minded organizations such as CanAge, which shares the same goals, values and determination to entrench the rights of older Canadians to enjoy full and connected lives.

Laura Tamblyn Watts, CanAge’s founder and CEO, is a lawyer and advocacy dynamo who has devoted decades to working on issues critical to seniors’ well-being.

Being “older” begins long before you become a senior, says Tamblyn Watts. “We are the culmination of all our experience, all of our opportunities and challenges, too … being a person of colour, an immigrant, a person managing within low income or low socio-economic status. You may be a woman, a gay man, a person raised in poverty. All things come together to shape your identity, and surprisingly, it may shape what your health and well-being is going to be in future years.”

Tamblyn Watts believes we need to “take a life course approach” to advocacy and think about the whole person. Advancing issues essential to well-being throughout life boosts the probability of healthy lives in later years.

RTOERO and Tamblyn Watts are committed to making Canada age-inclusive and to fighting ageism. We’re concerned about social isolation among older people, which can lead to depression, dementia and physical disorders.

“There’s an old saying that ‘age is just a number,’ yet all too often it needlessly drives a wedge between generations due to ageist preconceptions,” says Tamblyn Watts. “The truth is that when younger and older people come together, everybody wins.” 

To that end, CanAge helps establish intergenerational channels and programs across Canada to bring people of different ages together for the benefit and appreciation of all.

CanAge intergenerational projects: canage.ca/intergenerational

CanAge’s Policy Book identifies six different action arenas:

  • Violence and abuse prevention
  • Optimal health and well-being
  • Infection prevention and disaster response
  • Caregiving, long-term care, home care and housing
  • Economic security
  • Social inclusion

Under each section are projects for which we can lend support or initiate activity in our homes and communities.

CanAge Policy Book : canage.ca/advocacy/policy-book

Helpful resources

RTOERO advocacy programs: rtoero.ca/vibrant-voices

CanAge website: canage.ca/advocacy

more from the author
Image of ripples made in a large body of water
Photo Active Senior Citizen Removing Garbage from Stream in Park
Care and comfort
We ask: is now the right time to buy an EV?
more advocacy
Image of ripples made in a large body of water
Photo Active Senior Citizen Removing Garbage from Stream in Park
Care and comfort

We want to hear from you!

We welcome your feedback and want to hear from you. Letters may be edited for length and clarity at the discretion of the editor.