Ageism is real, but it’s not hard to get past the stereotype, say a pair of Saanich residents.
Thomas Sturge, 79, and friend Dene Mainguy, 83, live in The Kensington on Shelbourne Avenue next to Tuscany Village. The two shared their thoughts on ageism in the wake of a recent report released by Revera, which owns The Kensington.
“If you allow yourself to get older, then people are more likely to treat you that way,” Sturge believes. The former military officer and financial consultant says ageism exists among older adults too.
“Generally people want to be helpful around [seniors]. It’s appreciated, but it’s better to wait until you’re asked, because people like to think they can still do things themselves.”
Revera commissioned the Revera Report on Ageism: Independence and Choice As We Age, released May 30, by Revera and the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research in Ontario. It’s part of the Revera Innovators In Aging program, a $20 million commitment by Revera to bring innovations to life that will help seniors maintain their independence.
“Ageism is the next great social issue that demands our attention, and together, individuals, organizations and governments need to take action,” says Thomas Wellner, president and CEO of Revera.
The report says more than 42 per cent of Canadians feel ageism is the most tolerated form of social prejudice, more than racism (20 per cent) and sexism (17 per cent). It also says one in four Canadians who are 77 report others assume they can’t do things for themselves, and that because of their age, people make choices for them without asking their preference.
Sturge and Mainguy have experienced ageism, and witnessed it with others, but credit a forward thinking mindset for keeping themselves ‘young.’
“If I had grey hair, I would likely receive more of the stereotype, but I’m lucky,” Mainguy says. “I have my wheelchair, and mostly I’m only asked by people in grocery stores if they can help get some food down off the shelf, which I am grateful for.”
Mainguy comes to The Kensington after a career in nursing followed by 10 years as a bed and breakfast operator on Linden Avenue in Fairfield. She uses a power chair to get around, and keeps engaged mentally by playing games and keeping active.
There’s a dangerous stereotype that all adults with grey hair are on a path to having dementia, Mainguy says.
“People need to realize that there’s a stereotype and we [seniors] are not the stereotype.”
Sturge says he can see how the stereotype continues on.
“I visit a hospital ward where there are 19 people with dementia, and they all have grey hair,” Sturge said. “If someone extrapolates that, you would think all grey hairs get dementia.
“When you’re becoming a senior you have to accept it and make sure you exercise and eat well or you will accept being older [as an excuse to lose mobility and independence]. I walk six times a week and do exercises before breakfast. Otherwise, once you accept ‘being older,’ then you allow others to apply the stereotype.”