By Flora Thompson (guest opinion)
Seniors act of living
In the seniors building where I reside, there are 96 apartments and approximately 75 per cent are female tenants. Many of these senior women did not have the opportunity for higher education or choices for training, a vocation or career in their youth; they took jobs. The expectation by families was that daughters would get married, be at home raising a family and a man/husband would take care of them. Many parents of that era, including my own, believed educating girls was a waste of time and money.
In many cases and through no fault of their own, many female seniors in this specific cohort were pushed out the door, in their teens, to work and look after themselves. They took pink-collar jobs with low income and no benefits. Most women had problems making ends meet, did not have a bank account, had little financial power regarding loans and rarely owned houses or cars. Most women in pink-collar jobs married men in blue-collar jobs and remained in their own class, thus continuing this trend. If marriage was a living hell, women stayed because there was nowhere to go.
Employers often expected far beyond job description. Pink-collar workers had no on the job down-time because they were often sent to houseclean private homes, cottages and shovel snow. They complied to hold a job and because there was no government protection. These women retired at age 65 from a lifetime of hard physical labour with few or no benefits and they relied on government pensions which barely covered the necessities of life.
Men went through very similar experiences as women. Many blue-collar workers from the same cohort had little or no education. They too, were pushed out the door to work in manual labour jobs that may have required basic skills. Wages were often low and there were no benefits and no private pensions.
Married men with a family had to provide the necessities of life but they often felt tied to the job or owned by the employer. Some blue-collar workers never changed jobs due to lack of education and they too did not make enough money for bank accounts, savings, insurance, houses or cars.
Today, these seniors are 65 to 95 years old. They spent a lifetime looking after children, parents and others. Most have cooked for 60 to 70 years but they are tired of cooking and cleaning up so they open a can of beans, lasagna, spaghetti, sardines with bread or biscuits or have frozen dinners; all with high salt and carbs.
As for exercise some seniors have canes and walkers so do not go far on bumpy ground and sidewalks and do not get regular exercise. Even worse is lack of income for social activities. The cost of a movie and getting there and home is expensive. Without a drive seniors pay for buses or taxis to get to appointments and entertainment. Gyms and aqua fit are out of financial reach.
Without insurances exorbitant fees charged by dentists, audiologists, optometrists and physiotherapy is pocketbook draining. Healthy food is expensive and with no energy to prepare it, why bother?
In 2010, I suggested to provincial government they should have senior apartments, community care, nursing and heavy nursing care together in step-down units. Seniors would be able to access just about everything within their environment. It would solve many of the health issues seniors face and a bundle of money for government re unnecessary ambulances etc.
However, government no longer listens to common folk or thinks beyond their four- to eight-year terms. I expect this problem with seniors’ health will get worse.
In conclusion, is it any wonder seniors eat in fast food joints or out of cans at home? They cannot afford aqua-fit or gym for exercise or the rides there and back. Is it any wonder seniors booze it up? At the very least, they can have booze delivered. They can forget problems, stresses, worries, health problems, loneliness and being invisible for a few hours.
Flora Jean Thompson has a Master’s Degree in Education, UPEI where her thesis was on low education levels and abused women which took in all age groups from 1930 to 2006.