Pattern of Mobility and Social Participation Among Older People in Britain and Canada

Welcome to an exciting new chapter in the Aging Matters blog. Starting this week a new guest blogger will be featured on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Each guest blog will feature a unique perspective from a professional in the field of aging.

Our first guest blogger is Dr. Lok Bhattarai who completed his PhD on older people’s social isolation and well being in Britain. He has published research articles relating to older people’s health and social security issues in international journals. He now resides in Canada and is aiming to do further research on 1) cross-cultural study of aging, well-being, and happiness from health promotion and social policy perspective 2) international migration, aging, older people’s care and inter-generational relationships in the context of Canada.

Pattern of Mobility and Social Participation
Among Older People in Britain and Canada
by Dr. Lok Bhattarai

There are several aspects of social, cultural and economic life in Britain and Canada about which a meaningful comparison could be made. I have an observation relating to a pattern of older people’s general mobility and social participation in these two countries particularly based on West Yorkshire region in Britain and Peel region in Canada. Interestingly, both the select regions have the English speaking population in majority and the South Asian populations as visible minorities.

Older people’s mobility and social participation in public places is noticeably more frequent in the British case than it is in Canada. Depending on locality and the time of the day, older people in Britain often make a main group of passengers on the local bus services. In Britain, bus services are found almost everywhere and buses even connect neighbourhoods located in remote rural areas. Roads in the residential area are quite narrow and the speed limit is lower compared to that of Peel/Ontario. Older people can catch buses at a very short walking distance and can travel to their destination quite comfortably and can change buses as they need. The narrow intersections, low volume of traffic and the lower speeds would promote safety and comfort for older people. Older people are more likely to be confused by changes in their long-standing routines, which could easily happen in the case of a busy traffic environment. A huge majority of older people in West Yorkshire have witnessed their old age in the same locale where they were born and grew up. That being the reality, they might have a lot to reminisce about their childhood and working life while traveling around. It is an established practice among older people to see their friends in the local coffee shop at the town centre in every other few days and shop around together.

In Canada (Peel), while buses often run along major higher order roads, the adjacent residential areas are not always reached by the bus services. Roads are comparatively wide allowing high-speed traffic. Public buses often move along a straight line along the same road which often makes it necessary to change buses once or even multiple times to reach a nearby place. Consequently, on the one hand, older people cannot conveniently catch buses in their neighbourhood and on the other they might lose their comfortable familiarity and even become confused to change buses and to cross the streets. They might even lose control of their self and the environment. Peel region is known for its multicultural characteristics hosting different communities and cultural groups in its population. Especially in cases where interaction and exchange between different socio-cultural groups is not so intense, older people may not have a lot of friends with shared experiences to confide in within their neighbourhood. There are not so many places in Peel like town centres in the UK where older people would regularly meet up their friends and confide. Thus, it seems that a host of factors like physical and urban design, transport planning, and cultural geography make a lot of differences in older people’s mobility and social participation in their respective setting. Therefore, local spatial planners in Peel can learn from this observation and improve future planning to accommodate the need of older people.

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The Centre for Elder Research is working with India Rainbow Community Services on
a project funded by the MH-LHIN looking at the health and community service use and service needs of older South Asian immigrants (age 65+) in Peel and Halton. We are
going to different community locations throughout March to conduct surveys. If you are
a community organization or a community group that would like to participate please contact Marta at: marta.owsik@sheridancollege.ca 

Older Adults in Film and the Academy Awards

This year’s Academy Award ceremony’s red carpet will be graced with many more older adults (60+) than last year’s. There were only four older adult performances in last year’s nominated movies compared to ten this year.

Here is a list of the movies with descriptions from the Internet Movie Database:

  1. For his performance in Birdman, Michael Keaton, age 63, was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Keaton portrays a washed up actor, who once played an iconic superhero, battling his ego and attempting to recover his family, his career and himself in the days leading up to the opening of a Broadway play.
  2. American Sniper, directed by Clint Eastwood, age 84, has been nominated for Best Picture. The movie is based on a true story about Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle whose pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and turns him into a legend. Back home to his wife and kids after four tours of duty, however, Chris finds that it is the war he can’t leave behind.
  3. The Grand Budapest Hotel, nominated for Best Picture, boasts a talented cast of supporting older actors including; F. Murray Abraham, age 75, Jeff Goldblum, age 62, Harvey Keitel, age 75, Bill Murray, age 64 and Tom Wilkinson, age 67. The movie follows the adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous hotel from the fictional Republic of Zubrowka between the first and second World Wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend.
  4. Selma, nominated for Best Picture stars Jim France, age 70. Selma chronicle’s Martin Luther King’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965.
  5. Actor J. K. Simmons, age 60, received a Best Actor in a Supporting Role nomination, for his work in Whiplash. The movie is about a promising young drummer who enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.
  6. For his portrayal of the judge, Robert Duvall, age 84, was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in The Judge. The movie sees big city lawyer Hank Palmer return to his childhood home where his father, the town’s judge, is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth and, along the way, reconnects with his estranged family.
  7. Actress Meryl Streep, age 65, was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance in Into the Woods. A witch tasks a childless baker and his wife with procuring magical items from classic fairy tales to reverse the curse put on their family tree.

It’s wonderful to see the big screen embracing the talents of older adults and more accurately reflecting today’s society. Cheer on your favourite nominee during this year’s Academy Awards on February 22.

Older Adults, Technology and Relationships

file0001580592238“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.”
~ Robert Browning

Valentine’s Day is an opportunity for many older adults to celebrate their commitment to a loving relationship. According to Statistics Canada, approximately 72% of men age 65+ and 43% of women age 65+ lived as a couple in 2011. In contrast, approximately 33% of men age 90+ and 4% of women in the same age group lived as a couple.

For those older adults who are single and interested in pursuing a new relationship, technology may be the solution. Online dating has become a mainstream tool for young adults looking for a soul-mate and the industry is reaching out to older adults.

One example is Stitch, an online dating service with a twist. Created specifically for individuals age 50+, the service is not only for those looking for romance and marriage, but it also offers opportunities to find travel buddies, hiking partners and concert goers.

According to the 2013 Internet & American Life Project by the Pew Research Center, of older adults 65+:

  • 9% have searched online for information about a past relationship
  • 3% have used online dating sites or apps
  • 24% personally knew someone who had been in a long-term relationship or married someone they met through online dating (up from 13% in 2005)
  • 1% met their spouse/partner online

If you plan on looking for companionship online it is important to be wary of individuals asking for money or favours. An article titled 9 Tips to Keep you Safe From the Scammers on Online Dating Sites explains how unscrupulous individuals may take advantage of vulnerable older adults.

If you aren’t looking for romance but would like a great show to watch on Valentine’s featuring older adults in leading romantic roles check out Last Tango in Halifax. A British series where “childhood sweethearts Alan and Celia, both widowed and in their 70s, fall for each other all over again when they are reunited over the Internet after nearly 60 years”.

Older Adults and Heart Health

HM09-ENG-HEADERfinalHeart disease touches more than one in two Canadians.”
~ Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada

February is Heart Month in Canada. The Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada warns that as you age, your risk of heart disease increases. Men over the age of 45 and women over the age of 55 or postmenopausal women are at greater risk of heart disease.

The Foundation points out that although you cannot control your age as a risk factor, there are risk factors you can do something about:

  1. High blood pressure. Eating healthy, exercising and stopping smoking can reduce your risk for high blood pressure.
  1. High blood cholesterol. Smoking increases bad blood cholesterol. To help reduce your cholesterol: stop smoking, stay fit and reduce your fat intake to 20 – 35% of your daily calories.
  1. Being overweight. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. If you’re a man and your waist measures more than 102 centimetres (40 inches) or a woman whose waist measures more than 88 centimetres (35 inches), you are at increased risk.
  1. Excessive alcohol consumption. If you drink alcohol, limit your intake to two drinks a day (weekly maximum of 10) for women and three drinks a day (weekly maximum of 15) for men.
  1. Physical inactivity. The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends adults should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.
  1. Smoking. The sooner you become smoke-free, the sooner your body can start to recover and it doesn’t take long to see the effects. Within one year of quitting, your added risk of coronary heart disease is cut in half than that of a smoker. Within 15 years, your risk of coronary heart disease will be similar to that of a non-smoker.
  1. Stress. The relationship between stress and heart disease and stroke isn’t completely clear. However, some people with high levels of stress or prolonged stress may have higher blood cholesterol, increased blood pressure or be more prone to developing atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries).

The Foundation released a press report on February 3, 2015 entitled “Big challenges lie ahead for Canadians’ health despite decades of research advances.” The bad news is that heart disease and stroke continue to be the second leading cause of death in Canada. The good news is that thanks to research, today 95% of Canadians that have a heart attack will now survive.