Older Adults and Addictions

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse will be observing National Addictions Awareness Week from November 17 to 21 this year. Although substance abuse and addictions may be commonly associated with youth (this years theme is Youth Substance Abuse Prevention), many older adults also struggle with addiction.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada Health care professionals may experience difficulty identifying older adults with alcohol and drug abuse problems because ‘indicators such as memory problems, confusion, lack of self-care, depression, sleep problems and falls may be incorrectly attributed to the effects of aging’.

According to the Canadian Research Network for Care in the Community older adults who experience depression are three to four more times likely to develop alcohol problems. Risk factors include retirement, anxiety, loss of life partner and isolation.

Older adults process alcohol slower than younger individuals and therefore feel the effects of alcohol more. The effects of drug and alcohol abuse are more harmful to older adults than younger individuals. Substance abuse has the potential to increase an older adults risk of injury and illness.

Older adults who suffer from addictions may not reach out for help because of feelings of shame and privacy issues. Given the continuing growth of the older adult demographic, addictions among Canadians age 65+ have the potential to become a growing concern. Addiction is a treatable medical problem. If you suspect an older adult in your life is struggling with addiction contact your family doctor for resources and support.


Diabetes Awareness Month

diabetes-exerciseAccording to the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) more than nine million Canadians live with diabetes or prediabetes.

What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease, in which the body cannot produce insulin or cannot properly use the insulin it produces. Normally, insulin that is produced in the pancreas, opens cells so the glucose (sugar) in your body can be released and used for energy.

Type 1 diabetes
When individuals have type 1 diabetes the body mistakenly destroys the insulin produced by the pancreas therefore glucose builds up in the blood. There is no way to prevent type one diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes, also known as adult onset diabetes, is when the body does not properly use the insulin produced by the pancreas or does not make enough insulin to maintain normal glucose levels.

Type 2 diabetes may be prevented by:

Type 2 diabetes risk factors that cannot be controlled are:

  • Aging
  • Genetics

The most important thing an individual can do to prevent type 2 diabetes is to maintain a healthy body weight. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada self-reported obesity peaks in individuals aged 60 to 69 years of age. In 2009-2010, 22.5% of females age 60-69 and 22.6% males age 60-69 were obese.

Is a condition when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes may be prevented by the same methods as type 2 diabetes.

If you are wondering whether or not you are at risk for diabetes take the CANRISK diabetes test and find out.

The Benefits of Companion Pets

Maggie and SusieOur perfect companions never have fewer than four feet.”
~ Colette

Studies have shown that companion animals have the capacity to improve an individuals physical and mental well-being. A study entitled Evolution of Research into the Mutual Benefits of Human-Animal Interaction states that research in the field of human-animal interaction is improving our understanding of the role that pets play in:
- cardiovascular health
- ability to cope with stress
- retaining health and mobility into old age
- alleviating social isolation and building sense of community engagement
- and possibly enhance our immune function

So it seems, pets may be the perfect medicine for a number of issues that face some older adults such as social isolation and poor health. Non-profit organizations like the ones listed below enable older adults to enjoy the benefits of animal contact.

Elderdog Canada not only assists older adults in caring for their dogs but also cares for elder dogs who have lost their human companion.

Therapeutic Paws of Canada provides a volunteer-based pet therapy dog and cat visitation program’. The program involves volunteers and their pets visiting community institutions such as hospitals and long term care homes.

St. John Ambulance’s Therapy Dog Program provides a pet therapy visitation program that ‘brings joy and comfort to the sick, lonely and those in need of a friendly visit’. Regular visits allow the patients to develop a bond with the dog.

Check out the book Betty White’s Pet-Love: How Pet’s Take Care of Us to learn hownoted actress and animal lover Betty White draws on personal experience and the studies of leading authorities to show how science has confirmed what pet owners have known instinctively all along – that pets contribute to the health and well-being of their owners’.

HelpAge International and the Global AgeWatch Index

index“We work with our partners to ensure that people everywhere understand how much older people contribute to society and that they must enjoy their right to healthcare, social services and economic and physical security.”
~ HelpAge International

HelpAge International is a London-based charity that envisions ‘a world in which all older people can lead dignified, active, healthy and secure lives.’ Originally founded in 1983 as a combination of organizations from Canada, Kenya, India, Columbia and the UK, HelpAge International has grown to 100 affiliates in 65 countries.

HelpAge International established a Global AgeWatch Index in 2013. The index is based on four areas that affect an older adult’s well-being: income, health, capability and enabling environment.

This year’s Global AgeWatch Index rated Canada 4th (out of 96 countries) for the social and economic well being of its older adults. The index also rated Canadian older adults as ‘7th in income security, 4th in health status, 8th in capabilities (employment and education), and 9th in enabling environment’.

The 2014 Global AgeWatch Index top ten countries are:

  1. Norway
  2. Sweden
  3. Switzerland
  4. Canada
  5. Germany
  6. Netherlands
  7. Iceland
  8. United States
  9. Japan
  10. New Zealand

What are some of the factors that positively impact the quality of life for older adults in Norway?

To start with, Norway rated 1st for income security for older adults. Norway also had a 15 percentage points higher (70.9%) employment rate among older adults coupled with ‘the highest rate of educational attainment among older people (99.4%).’

One of the main reasons for Norway’s economic security is the wealth procured from heavily taxing Norway’s oil and gas industries. According to an article in the London Telegraph Norway created the Government Pension Fund Global commonly known as the Oil Fund – which has since grown to become one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds. Much of the country’s oil revenues are channeled into the fund, which is invested globally to pay for the growing financial demands of an ageing population.’

Norway also ‘comes in at number 4 in the enabling environment domain, with high rates of perception of safety (86%) and civic freedom (96%) among older people.’

In 1970, the National Council for Senior Citizens was created to give Norway’s older adults a voice in local politics and issues concerning the elderly.

Norway’s success appears to be a combination of economic wealth and progressive social policies. As the Global AgeWatch Index report states ‘economic growth alone will not improve older people’s wellbeing, … specific policies must be put in place to address the context-specific challenges of demographic changes’.