Now’s the time to start something new
Dominic Ventresca – none
As we navigate our individual life course, we regularly start new things as we adjust to challenges and opportunities. Notwithstanding stereotypes to the contrary, starting new things continues as we age and into our older adult life.
Fittingly, the Province of Ontario’s June 2018 Seniors Citizens Month theme “Now’s the time to start something new” draws attention to this reality. The theme also enables contemplation of today’s reality of older adults who are more active and vibrant than previous generations of seniors. In addition, it helps debunk the age-old stereotypes of senior citizens being fixed in their ways and passive.
Negative stereotypes about the nature of seniors abound in popular culture. Wrongly, older people are often lumped together and perceived as one homogeneous group, rather than as many unique individuals. Inaccurately, the group is characterized as being creatures of habit, not liking change, unable to learn new ways or unwilling to start something new.
Older people indeed start a lot of new things — some things by choice and others by necessity. Think about the transitions in many older people’s lives: A new lifestyle of different amount of paid work or maybe no paid work; new choices in volunteer work, travel and other recreational activities suitable to their new lifestyle, altered income and changing physical capacities; in many cases, child care/grand parenting; possible caregiver to spouse and aging parents; adapting one’s home to enable aging in place; downsizing homes or moving to another suitable living arrangement ranging from a new home closer to family to a retirement home. The list of changes and adaptations goes on and on.
Generally speaking, today’s older adults are better suited and able to start new things. Most of today’s older adults are: increasingly well and active; living longer; providing valued support to their families; contributing their life experience and expertise to the community through their volunteer work; making donations to worthy causes in greater numbers than other age groups; and being significant consumers in the local economy.
Aging post-war baby boomers are pursuing diverse interests corresponding to their better health, income and activity level. Age-old practices of retirement as full-time leisure or general inactivity are being replaced by new-age practices including launching new ‘third age’ careers, contributing to the work force beyond 65, mentoring younger entrepreneurs and leading community building efforts as volunteers.
Collectively, the new things that older people are trying are having an impact on the community – particularly in Niagara. For example, as identified in two consultants’ reports to Niagara Regional Council, the influx of retirees to Niagara from other parts of Canada is contributing significantly to Niagara’s population growth, generating population-serving jobs and the resultant in-migration of younger people, as well as a strong new-home market geared to empty nesters and retirees.
The Niagara Age-Friendly Network has actively promoted in all local municipalities the creation of an age-friendly Niagara — a community for all ages. Accordingly, the Province of Ontario recently recognized St Catharines, Thorold and Welland with Age-Friendly Community awards. Businesses have taken note of the spending power of older adults in Pelham, Thorold and Welland where age-friendly business guides have been compiled. A Niagara Chapter of the Business of Aging Network has recently been formed to reach out to local businesses to help them understand the opportunities that arise from the older adults market.
Niagara is a great place, and can become even better as more and more older people start something new and live up to the Ontario Seniors Month Theme every month of the year.
Dominic Ventresca is the co-chair Age-Friendly Niagara Network and can be reached at email@example.com.
Source: St. Catharines Standard