In late 2019, an article in The New Yorker asked the question: “Why can’t we tell the truth about aging?” The author, Arthur Krystal, considers several aspects of aging, with what appears to be the aim of presenting a realistic portrait of what it is truly like to get older. I thought there were a lot of interesting points mentioned, so in Part 1 of this blog (today) and Part 2 (tomorrow), I will be considering some of those points.
For today’s blog, I will review some of the author’s points relating to the idea that we improve as we age (although the author certainly does not appear to embrace this view). Tomorrow’s blog will consider some of the more negative views and aspects of aging.
The article starts off by listing a number of recent books about aging, and compares it to the more popular view from about 50 years ago that aging is something “we do not care to face”. These days, the trend has moved towards celebrating aging, and looking at it in a positive and optimistic light. The literature is clearly capturing this view, with titles such as “Better with Age: The Psychology of Successful Aging”.
Some of the authors of the books mentioned state that the older brain works “in a more synchronized way” and the structure of the brain is altered with aging in ways that boost creativity.
There is also an interesting discussion about whether we get happier as we age. This concept seems to make sense if we consider notions such as being more comfortable in our own skin, and experiencing less social anxiety as we get older. The article mentions a study indicating that happiness over the course of our lives follows a U-shaped curve where we are happiest as children and in old age (and least happy in the middle of our lives). Apparently, however, there has been some question as to the accuracy of this curve for several reasons, the simplest one being that happy older people may be more likely to participate in happiness surveys than seniors who feel miserable, unsatisfied, and apathetic.
I quite like the sentiment expressed by Helen Small, a professor at the University of Oxford, as summarized in the article, that “our lives accrue meaning over time, and therefore the story of the self is not complete until it experiences old age—the stage of life that helps us grasp who we are and what our life has meant.”
Thanks for reading and I hope you will join me for part 2 tomorrow!
Other blog posts that may be of interest:
The growth in Canada’s aging population has led to increased awareness of the special needs of seniors and the impact of the law on them. Our blogs have often dealt with issues that particularly affect the elderly, such as power of attorney abuse. In a previous blog, I noted the rise of a new practice specialty, elder law, to deal with the multi-faceted legal needs of the elderly.
The Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE) is a longstanding community legal clinic that has been at the forefront of elder law since 1984. ACE specializes in providing legal services to low income seniors in Ontario and promoting access to justice for the elderly. Through its work, ACE has developed expertise in issues affecting older persons, such as elder abuse and exploitation, mental capacity and consent, patients’ rights in hospitals and other institutions, and substitute decision making.
ACE is currently working with the Law Commission of Ontario (LCO) to research the best ways to enforce the rights of older adults residing in institutional settings, such as hospitals, long-term care homes and retirement homes. Older adults, including residents in institutional settings, are too often denied access to justice due to lack of awareness of legal rights, discrimination based on age, and financial and physical obstacles in trying to access the legal system. ACE’s goal is to develop an ‘access to justice model’ that will promote the autonomy and dignity of older adults residing in institutions, and ensure that their complaints are heard and successfully resolved. ACE’s work is part of a broader multi-year project by the LCO to develop a new framework to analyze and understand the impact of law on older persons.
Have a great day!
Bianca La Neve
Listen to Alter Ego Trusts.
This week on Hull on Estates, Natalia and Chris discuss what Alter Ego Trusts are and the pros and cons of using Alter Ego Trusts.