Age is an important notion. This can be described as the steps of the staircase of life or the mileage reading on the journey after birth. It is tremendously powerful, with great impact on one’s being and every day.
Age defines us, not only as individuals, but also as part of the collectivity. Each of us is part of an age segment and a generation. Every grouping has its own particular preferences and characteristics. It is common for the young people of each generation to rebel against conventional attitudes, dress, speech, etc, largely as an expression of social disillusionment. Some examples are: the Beat generation, (i.e. young adults of the 1950’s), (post-war) Baby Boomers, (born between 1946 and 1964); the Baby Busters, (born between 1967 and 1979), the Echo generation, (born between 1980 and 1995), Millennium Busters, (a generation starting in 1995 and being the children of the older Baby Busters). Generations X and Y are segments, straddling the two last.
In economic terms, each age group represents a distinct market niche. In some instances, younger is prime and older is not. This is true when it comes to cutting edge electronics. It is a fact that the sale of DVDs was propelled by the impact of Generation Y and its embracing of all things interactive. In this regard, mention is made of Kaan Yigit, a partner at SRG and the director of a study on topic. Yigit stated:
There’s almost a linear relationship between interactivity and age. The younger you are, the more likely you are to spend time with interactive media, … If you look at the way younger generations are collecting DVDs and the rate at which they are buying them, they’re doing that primarily because it gives them this sort of deep content that they are able to go in and consume any which they like, … As the director intended, backwards, sideways, look at all the different nooks and crannies and play with all the different interactive features. I think it’s a fundamental difference from the older generations (Damsell, Keith (Media Reporter), “DVD’s a hit in Canada especially among Gen Y, it took only five years to win 48% of households: survey,” The Globe and Mail, Wednesday, April 9, 2003, pg. B4).
Such is also the case for the cultural industries, (e.g., television, films, books, music, etc.), which target age categories. “A network’s focus on this age segment (18 to 49) conveys a certain fashionable cachet among the millions of viewers who fall within its borders, but it also has the effect of making viewers who have exceeded the upper limit feel cast out by the prime-time gods … According to a steady trickle of correspondence I receive from readers out of the 18-to-49 range, there is not one current series that seems tailor-made to appeal to the 50-plus set.” So said journalist, Melanie McFarland (McFarland, Melanie (Seattle Post-Intelligencer), “Network’s focus is forever young, Viewers over 50 feel alienated, Eighteen to 49 is a popular demographic because it’s vague, research director says,” The Gazette, Montreal, Monday, August 18th, 2003, pg. D8).
Greater numbers of seniors is not a far off eventuality, but rather an imminent challenge. All industrialized countries are aging societies. Europe already has more elders than youths. By mid-century, all of the United States will be older than Florida is today. And Canada’s population is aging faster than the United States because of a lower birth rate and also due to Canadians tending to live longer than U.S. residents. This is the opinion of the Centre for Spatial Economics, an economic think tank (Beauchesne, Eric (CanWest News Service), “Americans will become increasingly richer, younger than us, study claims, Canada needs to integrate immigrants, Think tank report shows Canadians live longer, but ‘not all of those years are golden,’” The Gazette, Montreal, Tuesday, April 13, 2004, pg. A4; Longman, Phillip (Baltimore Sun), “Lower birth rates mean the world is aging faster than at any time in history, raising fears of depopulation crisis, The demographic deficit,” The Gazette, Montreal, Monday, May 17, 2004, pg. A29). As per data as of late, the country’s median age is at an all-time high of 37.6, an increase of 2.3 years from the 1996 census. At present, the average life expectancy for a man is 76 years, while for a woman, it is 81 years. Baby Boomers number 78 million and this is about twice the number of those of the prior generation.
One in five Canadians will be 65 or older by 2026. The number of Quebecers aged 65 or more should rise to between 12% to 24% of the population by 2030. With 2001 as the base year, Canada is expected to reach this percentage range in 44 years (2045). It is noteworthy that this is earlier than many countries, as for example, Switzerland in 53 years, Sweden 62 years, Germany 62 years, United Kingdom 63 years and France 64 years. The 80 plus group moves up by 41%. This means that boomers can expect to live longer. Those aged 90 or more numbered 156,000 by 2001. And centenarians now make up the fastest-growing segment of North American population. In the U.S., while a rare breed, they still numbered 37,306 in 1990, but this total increased to 50,454 by 2000 and 6,000 as of today; and such number should skyrocket to four million by the time Baby Boomers start to reach 100. In New England, they represent one in 10,000. In Nova Scotia, they are one in 5,000. In this regard, mention is made of Dr. Thomas Perls, a geriatrician and researcher from the Boston University School of Medicine. He determined that they are usually found in families and he suggests that extraordinarily good genes are behind their longevity. A good number of individuals were able to live on their own at home well into their later years. 92.15% are men and 85% are women. Females tend to be stocky or plump, while the men are almost always lean and super-fit.
Views on and Reactions to Aging
Perspectives change as the years pass. Parents speak of their infants in terms of monthly increments, each of which being a treasured moment in time. Children continually add one half year to their ages, as they want to be older and seek stature among their peers. Teenagers are also anxious to meet the age qualifications for such activities as driving, smoking, drinking and going to bars. At 30 and in their prime, people appear to be more at ease and in proper balance in relation to where they came from and to where they want to go. But later in middle age, some undergo a mid-life crisis, defiantly intent on staying young. On the other hand, seniors are proud of their age, again including fractions so as to feed their sense of accomplishment. Indeed, Eddy McGurty, a 62 year-old retiree playing hockey said, “Hockey is what keeps me young.”
Nostalgia is a mild reaction. Regardless of race, creed, religion, origin, language, etc., it is quite usual. Many of us have favourable feelings for people and events past.
But the common view of aging is neither good nor positive. Indeed, Irving Layton captured the sentiment in his poem entitled, “Keine Lazarovitch 1870-1959,” an extract of which is reproduced as follows:
When I saw my mother’s head on the cold pillow,
Her white waterfalling hair in the cheeks’ hollows,
I thought, quietly circling my grief, of how
She had loved God but cursed extravagantly his creatures,
For her final mouth was not water but a curse,
A small black hole, a black rent in the universe,
Which damned the green earth, stars and trees in its stillness
And the inescapable lousiness of growing old. …
Given this negative and unpleasant perception, freeze-framing is another occurrence. Many want to stop the constant and irreversible onslaught of Father Time. In essence, they want to stay put and avoid the symptoms of old age and falling out of life. This inclination to stop the world also covers others in the family circle. Theocritus said, “Youth passes like a dream.” Sensing life flashing by, we want to hold on to the fleeting joys of today. Indeed, Nicholson Baker, wrote:
Last night I washed my son’s hair, thinking what I always think: How many years will be left before I have no child young enough to wash his or her hair? Phoebe takes long showers now and of course washes her own hair. The loss is enough to make you lose composure – I’m not kidding … Many family moments are going by and I’m missing most of them.
As well, false levity could appear. Fear of aging provokes nervousness. Up against the age monster, some people hide by poking fun at it. Take the tongue in cheek approach of journalist David Lovibond. He asserted:
My parents died quickly and hygienically, without any sort of precursory illness. I have no siblings, aunts, uncles or cousins whose descent into sordid infirmity might have obliged me to visit them. Throughout adult life it simply never occurred to me that I could get ill or that anyone else would either. My various partners knew not to admit to the least ailment: childbirth happened without me, and I was not expected to attend until all the unpleasantness had been tidied away. The years passed and no concessions to maturity were asked of me. I would never become old and, if I grew discontented … well, then I could run away and renew my contract with Dorian Gray. And that, in celebration of my 50th birthday, is what I did.
Of course, deep down, these individuals know that this strategy is ineffective as evidenced by Lovibond`s deterioration, which he described thusly.
Once begun, the list of my dilapidations expanded alarmingly. My eyes are full of motes, I wheeze; my teeth, like Byron’s are loosening; I cannot swallow food unless I chew it for half an hour; and there is a high-pitched squealing in my left ear that all but drowns the noise of my laptop. I munch handfuls of multi-vitamins, but still my knees creak and fail under me as I pound out the miles on the running machine. And, now I think of it, I’m not at all sure the gym is doing me any good. There’s the strain on my obviously crocked heart, the weights make my bones ache, and the place must be full of germs from all that sweating and spluttering. Naturally, I’ve taken my emerging complaints to the doctor, but he seems reluctant to commit the level of resources necessary to investigate them thoroughly. The fool airily dismissed the growth on my arthritic big toe as a bunion, and I was obliged to spend hours waiting among elderly fellow-sufferers for a chiropodist’s opinion to prove him wrong. … Now that I am more or less officially in decline, I seem unable to avoid the company of the chronically sick. … “Even some of the women I date, … I suppose, that our shared interests are more likely to be medical than romantic. … It will clearly not do, then, to end up with anyone my own age. I might have to look after them, even tend to their repulsive physical needs. … (Lovibond, David, “Growing old – gracefully,” National Post, Monday, June 2, 2003, pg. A12)
To the above is now added old-adversity. Our society creates those who con themselves and become age deniers. We used to have the good sense to call a spade a spade. This was the simple lesson from the ancient Greeks and Menander who said, “I know all and speak what I know, whether it be good or evil; I call a fig a fig and a kneading-trough a kneading-trough.” But today, we cannot describe more mature people as what they actually are. It is not politically correct. Journalist Lenore Skenazy reported that we are running from the ordinary labels. According to American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), its members are not “senior citizens.” Even if born between 1945 and 1962, a person is not a “boomer.” These terms have been banished from AARP magazines because they sound, well, old. … So the magazines dance around, often resorting to the term “older people” without ever saying older than what. And in England, old-people are routinely referred to as “wrinkles” (Skenazy, Lenore (New York Daily News), “They’re no longer sprung chickens, Renaming geezers, ‘Senior citizens’ sounds too, well old,” The Gazette, Montreal, Tuesday, September 7, 2004, pg. A19). And beyond sensibilities, some people fudge the numbers. Of course, this goes against the grain. But, non-accepting of advancing age, they turn life inside out and realign reality. Logic loses to fear of losing one’s youth. In particular, women typically become shy and stop the count, perhaps due to the biological clock, a keen desire to remain youthful or a body image connected to her identity. On female ageism, journalist, Lisa Fitterman, wrote, “Face it, girls. We have been lying to men for years about our ages … Just between us middle-aged fogies, this ageism thing has become positively endemic.”
However, maturity (and its sidekick, retirement), need not be bad. Again, reference is made to Dr. Perls. Research has dispelled the belief that getting older means getting sicker; and in fact, many centenarians manage to put off (major) illness until the last few years of their lives. Having studied dozens of those 100+, he contends that most Canadians could live until their mid-to late 80s by living better. And an older person could be happy. A retiree may make life interesting and have financial stability.
Age and the Law
Nevertheless, the road may be bumpy. A gentleman or lady passing middle age may find state-created barriers, be it through the legislative, executive or judicial branches of government. Perhaps the bureaucracy is negligent or even a lawbreaker. Maybe a person is obstructed from making health decisions and living as he or she pleases. Or a corporation may breach a contract, thereby restraining an individual from achieving retirement goals. But, this is a matter of rights. A citizen may then seek protection or redress, ask for the annulment of an illegal act or raise a legitimate defence.
To this end, he or she must turn to the justice system, but there is insufficient knowledge and understanding thereof amongst the general population. In this regard, mention is made of several polls in 2002, the first of which was the Compas telephone survey for the Justice Department. It canvassed 1,502 Canadians and found that 91% described their knowledge of the justice system, (including how laws affect them and their families, etc.), as moderate to poor. Indeed, it concluded as follows: “Not only are almost three-quarters of survey respondents unable or unwilling to identify any justice issues of relevance to them or their family at this time, one-third do not identify any issues of importance to Canadians as a whole. The findings point to a population that is largely unengaged in justice issues, on both a personal level and in their role as citizens or residents of Canada.” As well, Léger Marketing surveyed 1,501 Canadians between October 3rd to 6th 2002. It found that one half of Canadians couldn’t name any of the rights they are guaranteed under the federal Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And the percentages by province were as follows: Alberta: 44%; Atlantic provinces: 48%; British Columbia: 62%; Manitoba: 57%; Ontario: 50%; Quebec: 54%; Saskatchewan: 57%; and National: 52%. Indeed, on the subject of this poll, Jacques Fremont, dean of the law faculty at the Université de Montréal, was quoted as saying:
It’s worrisome, really worrisome … It worries me because there is so much talk today about national security about the reform of criminal law. And what the poll shows is that Canadians are not aware of their rights … What does surprise me a bit is that they couldn’t even guess one, like freedom of expression or the freedom of association or the right to equality.
The respect of rights is crucial for everyone, but even more so, for those approaching and entering their golden years. Already weakened by old age, our elders must navigate a legal landscape, which isn’t easily navigated. Canadians need legal advice to clear the way. Lawyers must become well versed in elder law. The “raison d’être” of these texts is to assist practitioners by providing an insight into this emerging field of law. They are also intended to aid other professionals in rendering their services as well as governments and institutions in better performing their functions. Furthermore, they should help companies deal with those 50+, be they to be, in their workforce or in their marketplace.
Elder Law in Canada
The present series of books is about aging and a person’s circumstances and rights as he or she grows older. Said work comprises a number of topical parts. Each one contains extracts of the applicable statutes in each province and territory. This is followed by pertinent jurisprudence as well as an analysis of the subject matter. In addition, are included the so-called “Golden Rules,” which are how-to guidelines in a checklist style plus directories, listing the co-ordinates of many pertinent authorities.
The current three volumes can be more fully enumerated as follows.
Volume 1: Medical Module
The first two parts deal with the health care issues of the middle aged and beyond and of those who are mentally challenged. There are sections on such topics as (a) consent; (b) withholding or withdrawing treatment; (c) continuation and stoppage of life support; (d) euthanasia; (e) physician-assisted suicide; (f) hospice; (g) declining mental function, dementia, public guardianship, etc.
Volume 2: Work Module (Labour-Entrepreneur)
The third part speaks to such subjects as (a) employment; (b) termination/dismissal; (c) unemployment; (d) age bias/discrimination; (e) forced retirement; (f) pros and cons of retiring a worker; and (g) the ins and outs of deciding to take early retirement; etc. The fourth part discusses the challenges and process of someone 50+, becoming self-employed and launching a business on retirement. In addition, it describes in great depth, the situation of an entrepreneur, 50+, having built a successful family business or a great corporation, which is now faced with the prospect of business devolution and/or transfer to the next generation. It profiles the people involved, the forces and feelings in play, possible problems plus the make-up and skill-sets of the preferred successor.
Volume 3: Retirement/Estate Module (Pension, Retirement/Estate Planning and Pre-death Documents)
The fifth part examines retirement income and provides an overview of the pension system in Canada, same detailing such areas as (a) OAS/GIS; (b) CPP-QPP; (c) RRSPs; and (d) private/company pensions; etc. The sixth and seventh parts deal with a person, arranging his or her personal affairs and making end-of-life directives. This is through a retirement plan, an estate plan and the execution of pre-death documents, notably, a will, power of attorney, advance medical directive/mandate (living will), trust deed, organ donation writing, etc.
With this said, let us now begin; and now on to the texts.
© 2005 Practitioners’ Press Inc./ TM Practitioners’ Press Inc.