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Yet Another “Ism” or Two

Senior Week was in June. I missed that.

Senior Week was in June. I missed that. Somehow with overwhelming evidence and awareness highlighted by the pandemic, everyone matters, and inequities and inequalities were perpetuated by prejudice and discrimination in the world, Sexism, racism, and unmarked graves of children at the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc residential school in Kamloops called horrible attention to the preciousness of every child. There are no words that can express the immensity of sorrow and inconceivable reality of the legacy of the residential school system. We shouldn’t have had to declare every child matters that way.

This column started as a tribute to the elderly in recognition of Senior Week, but I needed to express the horror of discovery of the children’s graves before I move to the distressing state of senior housing and care also magnified by the COVID crisis. The focus of this issue waned after the first flurry revealed the lack of standards and government attention to long term care and senior housing. In the 80s, senior housing and elder care came under examination and now current long-term care has become the focus. Still, a whole aging population, people in-between living in their own homes and LTC if it becomes needed, have few choices other than private and frightfully expensive residences. I’m grateful and fortunate to be able to afford mine and have coughed up privileged savings, except I won’t be leaving any to my offspring, and face the hidden costs of a downsized healthcare system.

I hate the idea of my taxes being used to fund things I am morally against. I sense there might have been an underlying attitude at the beginning of the pandemic of “thank goodness it’s only the old folk.” I’m sensitive to these attitudes and though not labeled as such, they are the result of ageism.

I could make an argument that it’s not only a matter of ageism, but also sexism. Men have a shorter life span than women and leave spouses alone for the last 10-15 years of their lives. Now I’ve said the word ageism and another boogie is out of the closet. That it is the way society thinks about old people and results in inadequate and unaffordable senior living, often absent of preventive support services such as diabetic clinics, footcare that could prevent amputations, blood pressure clinics, dietary services, mental health services, and coordination of health care services.

Instead, there’s an absence of aging in place philosophies at a time when families have been geographically separated from each other to meet the engine of the economy. Policies and practices have not replaced the services taken away by that engine. Though kinships have been weakened, families are still expected to pick up elder care by their children (sometimes called the sandwich generation). Designed to meet the purchasing needs of a market economy, both men and women work outside the home, making them unavailable and overwhelmed by a system that has abandoned the elderly and off-loaded health care.

Looking into the future - the “what if” syndrome, wanting answers we can’t have with the same old leadership and short-term solutions is very predominant for people my age. Ageism is not just a matter of people calling the elderly “Dearie,” or “Hon,” it’s a loss of autonomy that has been apprehended by a culture and economy, a reduction of choices that discriminates against the elderly and their families, rendering both generations powerless and at the mercy of politics and the economy.