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This is 60 – women and aging in Canada

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Setting long term goals and staying connected through continuous learning and social interaction leads to healthy aging for senior women in Canada. (Anita Szabadi-Gottesman photo)

Jane Seymour, renowned British actress and former Bond girl, is not taking down the star on her dressing room just yet. Last year, at age 67, she posed for Playboy magazine for the third time (although not in the nude), becoming the oldest woman ever to do so.

In a video produced by Everything Zoomer, Canada’s voice for “boomers with zip,” Seymour eloquently discussed life’s various stages and said she is grateful for her continued good health, as she has seen many in her inner circle pass away over the last several years. Seymour is steadfast as she moves through her senior years, understanding that senior women are now living in their prime – not trying to prove anything to anyone anymore. Accepting the challenge of living with an open heart, she focuses on making sure to live in the moment.

Seymour’s words echo those of many Canadian women over 60, newly free from decades of caregiving to children – and sometimes ailing parents – on top of many years in the workforce. In its sweeping 2016 census, Statistics Canada reported the country’s senior population at a record 5.9 million, compared to 5.8 million Canadians under 14 – the first time in Canadian history that seniors have outnumbered youth. And according to 2017 government reporting, there are approximately 2.25 million Canadian women in the 60-to-69 age group. In July 2018, Ottawa recognized the importance of the senior demographic by naming the first federal minister of seniors.

While the government defines a senior as someone 65 years of age or older for the purpose of eligibility for certain programs and services, more and more organizations set 50 as the threshold. Some people now like to say that 60 is the new 40, and the prospect of many decades of healthy life left for senior women comes with just as many challenges. Longer lifespans necessitate more careful planning of career paths, finances and living arrangements. The Ottawa-based non-profit Vanier Institute of the Family forecasts that, by 2031, nearly one quarter of all Canadians will be 65 or older. The baby boomer generation of Canadians born between 1946 and 1965 is just hitting its stride, with the oldest now reaching their early 70s and the youngest closing in on 55.

Aging successfully is multifaceted and much the same for men and women. Taking the time to ask yourself hard questions and setting goals is the way to begin. Art Markman, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of Smart Change, spoke to Rebecca Webber about healthy aging in her 2014 article for Psychology Today. Markman warns that individuals run the risk of doing lots of little things every day – cleaning the house, sending emails, catching up on TV – without ever making a contribution to their futures, which can leave people feeling restless and unfulfilled. “It’s the big picture things that give life meaning, like parenting or becoming an expert at something,” Markman said.

READ: ANNUAL MENTAL HEALTH EVENT TO TACKLE MEMORY AND AGING

The Canadian National Framework on Aging has outlined five core values – dignity, independence, participation, fairness and security – leading to highly desirable outcomes for the vast majority of seniors. It also highlighted the need for continuous learning, work and participation in society.

Why should aging be any less challenging than all the previous segments of our lives? Toronto-based journalist and author Sandra Martin’s August 2018 article on aging in The Walrus magazine asks just that. She says that achieving success in every other life stage, from toilet training to raising a family and more, requires grit, practice, stress and flexibility – aging well should be no different.

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