UNIDOP or United Nations International Day of Older Persons happens on Sunday, October 1. In 1990, the United Nations General Assembly designated October 1 as a day to celebrate the contributions seniors make to society.
Seniorszen blog https://www.seniorszen.com/blog/2017/09/26/celebrate-seniors-october-1 notes that the theme for 2017 is ‘Stepping into the Future: Tapping the Talents, Contributions, and Participation of Older Persons in Society.’ It’s a nobel mission statement. However, I’m left wondering why this celebratory day is not widely publicized.
Remarkably, there are few published celebrations in the small city where I live despite the fact that many new residents are 60 plus years old and move here to retire. Various websites suggest celebrating the day by visiting a senior or taking a senior out for coffee. These options make me wonder whether the authors subscribe to commonly held ageist beliefs — beliefs that consider most older people as socially isolated, lonely, depressed, or needing company from a well-meaning volunteer.
Debunking Myths about Older People
It’s time to de-bunk some myths about aging and older people.
We can begin by banishing the term ‘senior’. I was a senior in high school and in university. I dislike this term and how it’s often applied to older people. I prefer to call myself an older person or, simply, an old woman. That said, I do like ‘senior’s discounts’ and ‘senior’s rates’ at theatres and restaurants; I would just prefer a more honest description of who I am.
Another myth that needs debunking is the belief that seniors are a drain on the economy. Many worry that the aging population will mean that government benefits such as Old Age Security(OAS) and Canada Pension Plan (CPP) in Canada will bankrupt the country. OAS is paid from general tax revenue while CPP is fully funded from employer and employee contributions. Overlooked or forgotten is that such all pension benefits are fully taxable. Once annual income reaches a certain level, Old Age Security is clawed back; it is eliminated completely when income reaches a certain level. Other taxes paid by older people include property taxes, sales taxes, automobile registration/license fees, and passport fees.
Old people are commonly described in the media as cranky, unhappy, lonely, and depressed. Most retired people feel that they are living one of the happiest times of their lives. Good health and financial security are important cornerstones for happiness; however, many older people who suffer with chronic health issues find ways to enjoy life and the freedom that comes with aging. Yes, older people suffer from depression but so do younger people. Both groups respond to treatment.
There are endless jokes about ineptness of older people when it comes to technology. Technology hasn’t been overlooked by older people. Use of the internet gives access to social media, online shopping, security devices for smart homes, and wearable medical devices — all of which improve quality of life. Smart phones give access to on-demand services regardless of location. They provide a take-along camera. Nobody is surprised when school children use tablets yet they don’t expect elders to use them as easily! As an old person, I may not be an early adopter, but, like my contemporaries, I refuse to be left behind as the world around me changes.
Finally, there is a belief that old people become less relevant as they age.
There’s no doubt that I’m not relevant in my previous profession — I passed the torch when I retired. But roles change as does the sphere of influence. I’m relevant to a certain 4 year-old as her grandmother. I’m important to my husband, my son, my daughter-in-law, and to my friends. Older people who create a purposeful life, maintain a positive attitude, foster a range of social connections, and continue to learn new things remain relevant. Self confidence and self worth don’t disappear with age.
De-bunking myths about growing older is worthwhile on any day. UNIDOP needs to be celebrated on October 1 and on every day of the year! I hope you’ll celebrate the day by challenging myths about older people. My celebration will include a dinner out with my husband and some of his bridge friends — older people who are happy, involved, knowledgeable about our community and the world. We’ll eat together, laugh, toast our health, and enjoy each others’ company. Of course, we’ll ask for a ‘senior’s rate’ when the bill comes!
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