Written by Debbie Olson
June 2 to June 8, is Senior’s Week in Alberta. It is a time to celebrate the contributions our seniors have made to our communities, our city, our country and our lives. They are past and current leaders. They helped to shape the technologies we use and rely on today. They have impacted the lives of family, friends, neighbours and strangers over the years by providing support when and where they can, staying active when possible and volunteering time to help others.
Contributions from the over 1,800 seniors currently living in our community and those who came before and have passed on, have invested time, effort, imagination and supports over the decades to make our community what it is today. Their legacy has provided us with a wealth of history and the foundation on which we build moving forward.
Many of our seniors have faced challenges we can only imagine. If we have been lucky enough to interact with our senior relatives over the years, and if we have truly listened, we have gained personal insights not only to our personal family history, but we have also learned how much the world has changed, in their lifetime. If we take the time to reflect on our own histories, we see the changes that have occurred for us over the years. I often wonder, if I am lucky enough to still be around when I am the age of some of the oldest seniors in our community, what changes are still to come and how much will our future lives and the lives of those who are following us, be impacted by the things we are creating, the technologies we are expanding on and the decisions we have made and will continue to make over the next years.
Too often we don’t acknowledge the contributions of seniors to our lives. Our world is not perfect, but neither are we. We learn, grow, adapt, change and try to make things better in the same way many of our seniors have. We forget that the advances we have today in technology, medicine, business etc. are based on work, creativity, perseverance and the skills of those seniors who came before us. Just as they built a foundation which gave us the advances we take for granted now, we are hopefully doing positive things to create advances and improve things for those who come after us.
We all can have very different views of seniors. Positive views are a result of good interactions and connections. Negative views could be influenced by past adverse experiences or having no experience at all with seniors in the past. This is no different then other interactions we have had, some will be good and some not so much, but I hope we do not “paint” all new interactions with the same brush, or lump all seniors into the same category, based on negative past experiences. We need to give ourselves the opportunity to connect and experience new relationships that may surprise us, despite past negatives.
As with any other stage of life, growing older can have its challenges, joys, downfalls, heartaches, successes, and wonders. Getting older can be an achievement and cause for celebration, looking forward to the possibilities of having the time to travel, enjoying things there hasn’t been time for or crossing items off a bucket list. Challenges faced can be the result of changes in health or circumstances and can be made worse when a support system is lost or was never available.
I am proud of our seniors and enjoy the stories and experiences they are willing to share with me about their lives. I sometimes learn knew things or gain an understanding of the difficulties they have faced and overcome over the years and that creates a whole new learning curve. I look forward every day to connecting and finding ways to help when needed, making connections for support and building a network in the community.
We have all heard time and again that the senior population is growing. Those who were born between 1946 and 1965 are referred to as “baby boomers”. This twenty-year span saw more than 8.2 million babies being born in Canada alone (stats Canada). That’s a lot of babies and while the first of the baby boomers turned 65 in 2011 there are still a lot of seniors to come. Those of you reading this, if you are lucky, will one day have the privilege of becoming seniors and I hope that will make you proud. For some that will be a good experience, but for some there will be challenges. Hopefully there will be a support network of family, friends or neighbours in place to help you when needed.
The next time you see a senior, trying saying hello and giving them a smile. Strike up a conversation or ask how they are doing. You never know how much of an impact having someone acknowledge you, can have on a person’s day and you never know what you might unintentionally learn. Remember our seniors in June and in the months to come. Remember that if you are lucky, someday you will be a senior and I hope you will be Senior Proud.