Why Should We Invest in Wellness?
Canada’s population is aging. We are not unique – the industrialized nations of the world are challenged with a senior population that is growing, chiefly attributable to both the ageing of the WWII baby boomers and the significant advances of medical procedures and technology. The following chart, based on recent Statistics Canada data, illustrates the growing number of Canadian seniors. In 1920, seniors 65 and over represented just under 5% of the total population. Today, that number has reached 12.5%, or approximately 3.8 million seniors. It is projected that by 2040 seniors will represent a quarter of the population. The University of Ottawa’s Canadian Study of Health and Ageing speculates that there will be about 7.8 million Canadians 65 or over by 2031.
The National Advisory Council on Aging adds that in addition to the 3.8 million seniors of today, there are another 2.5 million “near-seniors”, 55 and over.
These are real statistics that present significant challenges to Canada, not the least of which is the ever rising cost of health care for seniors. There are many ways to meet these challenges, and investing in wellness is but one. By improving the mental and physical well being of seniors the costs of health care will be mitigated and Canada’s seniors will continue to lead even more useful lives, contributing even more significantly to the overall prosperity of Canadians.
The life styles of Canada’s seniors are also changing. In the past, seniors worked to the magic age of 65 when they retired to sedentary lives. They were expected to stand aside, out of the way of the hustle of everyday life and to put miles on the rocking chair. Such a lifestyle encouraged all sorts of physical, emotional and social problems. The daily contact with co-workers and the sense of purpose connected with a career provided a feeling of pride and self-worth which, coupled with a regular, daily routine, established a framework for living. For many, this framework ended dramatically at 65.
Times have changed. Spurred on by downsizing and early retirement, the definition of “senior” has been revised. The corporate world increasingly sees the benefits of seniors, and are looking to those 55 and over, and in some case as young as 50. They recognize the value of older adults – in real dollars. Insurance companies, money management companies, banks and financial institutions are spending millions to capture the attention, and the spending power, of this important segment of our population. The “Freedom 55” advertising campaign has become more than a dream for many Canadians. With more people leaving the workforce and leaving at an earlier age than in the past, the available leisure hours are also increasing. The challenge is to channel this leisure time into more productive time and thereby minimizing the ever-present threat of what has come to be known as “Senior Social Isolate”.
The Social & Psychological Facts
A physically and mentally active lifestyle helps seniors to cope with stress and anxiety. Older adults who are active are more self-confident, more independent and enjoy life more than those who are sedentary. Physical and mental activity reduces the likelihood of developing psychosomatic diseases. Research indicates that most older adults have the ability to participate in some type of activity and that these activities can improve the quality of life. Older adults who are active have more opportunities for socialization and friendship than those who are inactive. Socially active seniors make a positive contribution to the community. It is therefore important to provide opportunities for participation such as through the Canada 55+ Games and all the various levels leading to the Games.
The Physical Facts
Active living is particularly important for seniors. In general, physical activity improves the overall health, appearance and mobility of older adults. Fit seniors live longer, participate more fully in community life and decrease reliance on health care and social services. Recent studies have proven that older adults who regularly participate in physical activities substantially reduce their risks of suffering from coronary disease, diabetes, hypertension and osteoporosis. Physical activity improves blood circulation and digestion and also improves strength, flexibility and balance. It is important for older adults to realize that it is never too late to begin to exercise regularly to improve cardiovascular endurance, lower blood pressure and increase bone mineral content.