I mentioned earlier that I attended a Council of Senior Citizens Organization convention as I returned from the UBCM convention a few weeks ago. Allow me to pass on to you a few of the more memorable ideas that I gleaned from the various expert presenters.
Before attending the convention, if you had asked me to identify the age category creating the greatest drain on the provincial medical budget, I probably would have responded “the Seniors,” my group (there, I’ve admitted it; I’m finally out of denial – for a while). I’ve been disabused of that idea. Seniors are not the huge drain on the system like the urban myth would have us believe. No, contrary to all expectations, the aging population isn’t going to bankrupt the system.
Health-care costs are related to illness and the fact of the matter seems to be that the Seniors are getting healthier as a group. Eighty-one per cent of all Seniors live out their lives with no disability; 11.8% experience moderate disability; only 7.2% of Seniors require serious medical care. (I wouldn’t have guessed that either.) Then there are those who make seriously stupid errors of judgment and place themselves in jeopardy like I did the other day at some cost to the system (but that error is not age related).
Social connection is essential to the health of everyone from infancy to old age (that’s why we have family and friends). For those who need extra care, the 7.2%, we could do much better as a society. Remembering that the only human being that always wants a change is sweet baby, we need to do more about letting the 7.2% age with dignity, social contact, communication, and as much independence as possible in their own homes. If my observations teach me anything about aging, it would be that the older we get, the less we want to leave the familiar comfort (the comforting familiarity) of our own homes. With better management of the resources we do have, many of the 7.2% might have the pleasure of living out their days in their own homes. We might have to use our resources differently; a different attitude toward health care could be required – maybe even a different attitude toward the aging.
We might even have to put resources into keeping people well rather than into curing them after they are sick. It’s the fence on the cliff rather than the ambulance in the valley. What a novel idea!
What can a local government do to promote healthy living? It seems like most of our efforts recently have been directed toward recruiting medical doctors – not that we should relax these efforts – but doctors seem to spend most of their time fixing us after we’re broke, and we are too often broke. We’ll have to take more responsibility as individuals and as a community for our personal and community health. Do you have ideas? Share them with your Mayor and Council.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor