Serving Greater Vancouver & the Fraser Valley
Union Gospel Mission

The senior journey

By Lillianne Fuller

Barring the onset of a catastrophic illness, chronic disease or dementia, seniors are living far more active lives than in the past.

In their late 50’s and 60’s they are called Zoomers and their lifestyle differs greatly than that of their parents. Seniors are downsizing, pursuing different interests, and many are providing daycare for grandchildren. More than a few are still working.

At 60, Kevin Staples traded in his business suit and tie for motorcycle leathers. After spending 40 years in the corporate world, Kevin retired.

With his Certified Financial Planners (CFP) Designation, continuing to work in the financial world was an option, but he was looking to do something different in retirement. A motorcycle enthusiast for over 20 years he became a riding instructor. Today he continues to teach and for the past two years he’s also worked at Denco Cycle selling motorcycle parts.

Being fit and remaining healthy are considered critical to seniors who want to maintain an active lifestyle. They know that remaining fit is key factor for good health. Staying flexible helps avoid falls so some seniors have added yoga to their fitness regime. May, a Christian, had some misgivings about yoga because of its non-Christian components. May’s instructor, Carol Oliver, who is also a Christian, disagrees. ”What makes any particular practice Christian or not is not the source, but the intent. If our intent is to deepen awareness in Christ, then it is Christian,” she says. “The deep, even breathing creates stillness of mind and body, allowing for the opportunity to connect with God and sense His gentle leading,” she adds. In addition, yoga poses are known to increase core strength and balance and this helps reduce the risk of fall-related injuries. An added bonus is enhanced flexibility and a sense of wellbeing.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle requires extra effort. Rita Squires, 63, learned this after she retired. A spike in her weight and the onset of osteoporosis revealed she had to make some changes in her lifestyle. “It has taken me some time to realize that as I age, I need less food and different foods to maintain good health. When I retired my daily routine shifted. I continued to consume the same meals on the same schedule as when I was working,” she says. Now instead of eating high carbohydrate meals, she has increased her consumption of fruits and vegetables. “I try to stay away as much as possible from bread, potatoes, flour and sugar. Salads and fish are now a staple on our menu,” she adds.

Some youthful seniors also report being concerned about their financial future. Some have made plans for financial freedom but others are just starting to realize that their money must last as long as they do. Travis Strain, a Certified Financial Planner offers advice to prepare for a senior’s golden years. He advises that in order to avoid pitfalls and anxiety a person sit down with an expert and make a workable financial plan. “If you don’t already have a written financial plan, you need to go out, find a reputable Certified Financial Planner and make one,” he says. “Too many times we are introduced to new clients who are quickly approaching retirement who still have large mortgages, unsecured debts and nowhere near enough money saved. This is a recipe for trouble in retirement,” he adds.

The landscape of society is changing. In just under three years, demographics in North America will experience a seismic shift. By 2020, more people will be over the age of 65 than under 21. Community agencies have been well aware of this phenomenon and to that end, they sought ways to address issues raised by this demographic shift. The United Way provided funding for communities to establish local think tanks called ‘action tables’. Not simply to establish and encourage dialogue among seniors, government agencies and service providers, the goal of the community action tables was to develop strategies specific to each community to address seniors’ issues in the coming years.

Though United Way funding was discontinued, many senior’s community action tables have remained and the Langley Seniors Community Action Table (LSCAT) is one of them. They have a membership of more than 200, with a core group of 12. Kathy Reddington is Langley’s coordinator and she encourages seniors of any age to get involved. “If a person wants to spend time with like-minded people to identify issues and work to develop solutions, a community action table is a good place to start,” she said. There are community action tables in Surrey, New Westminster, Vancouver and other communities throughout the Lower Mainland.

Today, due to scientific and medical advances, seniors in their 50’s and 60’s have the potential to live well into their 80’s and 90’s and beyond. With a combination of maintaining healthy lifestyles, staying current in today’s changing world and enjoying the wisdom of growing older, seniors can enjoy the journey to longevity.

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