It’s amazing how slowing down can open your mind. How it forces you to notice things you didn’t pay much attention to before. In my case, it’s my parents. Ok. Wait. I realize that sounds pretty damn selfish. Let me explain.
Since early 2020, all that mattered was that my mother and father were at home safe and fully vaccinated. I never really considered how the pandemic was affecting them and their health. But recently, I came across an article outlining how COVID has magnified the struggles facing many seniors today. Struggles such as loneliness, depression, chronic illness and even ageism. All of which has me considering my role as their child in mitigating what’s within my reach.
I’ve spent the better part of my career in marketing communications always focused on the next generation. Researching and trying to understand things like the consumption habits of Millennials and now Gen Z. Despite years of research and writing, I’ve given little thought to how we’ve left seniors out of the consumption equation and, for me, this no longer adds up, especially when it comes to health and wellness.
Combined with the fact that constituents of the “silver economy” are the wealthiest in the world, they have high needs, the least of which is medical and specialized care. 80% of adult Americans 65 and older suffer from one chronic condition, while 68% have two or more. Consistently, 44% of Canadian adults 20+ have at least 1 of 10 common chronic conditions. Considering these are largely attributable to unhealthy lifestyles like poor nutrition and lack of exercise, the stats are something we should all be concerned with, no matter the generation.
Undoubtedly, the prevalence and severity of chronic illness has grown as a result of restrictions imposed by the pandemic. But, the challenges go beyond just physical distress as almost half of people aged 55+ report feeling lonely due to social distancing. This means that many of the challenges facing our elders today are, in fact, preventable.
While solutions like the FitOn app or experimenting with new hobbies such as cross-country skiing have helped me get by, my parents aren’t exactly attune to such things. COVID, combined with the fact that we live in a cold climate, has forced my aging parents indoors with limited access to activity. As a result I’m witnessing the negative impact on their mobility and even worse, their mind set. Because of this, I’ve decided to leverage some free time to effect change. Along with my sister, a certified yoga instructor trained at Rishikesh Yogpeeth in India, I’ll be meeting mom and dad regularly to practice yoga, breathing and stretching. We kicked things off last week and frankly it was a bit of a reality check. Simple movements they once took for granted no longer come as easy – something I’m hoping these sessions can help reverse.
Ideally, we maintain our meetings and have others in the community join whether it be in-person or through video conferencing. There’s this widely accepted belief that seniors are averse to technology but in reality tech adoption among the older population has grown significantly over the last decade. Sure, it’s not as prevalent as in the younger cohort but it’s there. So I’m hoping, when the time comes, to get the word out. The benefits are three-fold: manage the loneliness that tends to creep up with age and isolation, get people moving and program myself to keep health top of mind.
In many ways, COVID has highlighted how we’ve failed to support our elders, even before the pandemic hit. When life slowly gets back to normal, I expect we won’t forget the issues we dealt with and the continued efforts needed to keep our society strong. This small initiative is my part in contributing to those efforts and ensuring we don’t overlook a generation that has given us (me) so much.