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As the proportion of persons over age 65 in Canada climbs from 11 per cent at present to an estimated 24 per cent by the year 2031, it's essential to provide more and better care for those needing assistance. The vast majority of older people are "well" elderly who remain healthy into their 80s (even 90s), often needing little or no help. Given safe household organization, social involvement and an active lifestyle, many of the well elderly can go on living at home to a ripe old age.
Regular medical exams can ferret out physical disorders that need treatment -- such as incontinence, failing vision, osteoporosis, arthritis, Parkinson's disease and depression. In Canada, the elderly must also learn how to overcome the hazards of winter living!
Family and friends ("informal caregivers") do most of the
According to experts from the University of Toronto's Centre for Studies on Aging, "the ability to keep frail older people out of institutions rests mainly on the backs of relatives and friends, who provide about 80 per cent of needed assistance to the elderly in Canada." those looking after the elderly can enlist varied services -- home support agencies, visiting nurses, aides, physiotherapists, social workers, homemakers, social clubs and Meals on Wheels -- which help to maintain a senior's independence.
Maintain independence as long as possible
Surveys show that seniors fear the loss of independence and admission into long-term care facilities above all else. The spectre of reliance on others is upsetting; even losses such as no longer driving a car can be hard to accept and may be resisted long after it is unsafe to do so. Anyone looking after older people must recognize their intensive anxiety over the loss of freedom and respect the wish for continued independence. The average age of entry into geriatric institutions in Canada is 82, but we tend to over-institutionalize our old people. About seven per cent of elderly citizens in Canada reside in long-term care institutions (excluding those occupying senior citizens' apartments and retirement homes), compared to only five per cent in the U.S. and U.K, and four per cent in West Germany. Large numbers of the frail elderly occupy Canadian hospital beds, many awaiting transfer to long-term care facilities. (Other countries, such as Britain, have fewer long-term care hospital beds and shorter or nonexistent waiting lists.) "In effect," notes one University of Toronto geriatric expert, "we warehouse rather than rehabilitate our …