On the eve of a major release of 2011 census data that's expectedto highlight the rapidly growing proportion of seniors in Canada'spopulation, a new national survey on attitudes around aging showssurprisingly less concern among the country's oldest citizens aboutthe inexorable march of time and higher levels of anxiety amongyounger Canadians. The unexpected findings flow from general questions about growingolder and a very specific one about the ultimate and unavoidableresult of aging: death. And in each case, while Canadians aged65-plus offered answers amounting to a collective shrug aboutgetting older, the youngest cohort those 18 to 24 confessedgreater concern. The survey, released to Postmedia News by the Montreal-basedAssociation for Canadian Studies, was commissioned to shed light onthe implications for "the Canadian psyche" of theso-called greying of the nation. |
"There is much debate about what the demographic shifts willimply for our society's ability to afford health care andpensions," states a summary of the study. "There is lessattention directed at what it will mean for our collective state ofmind when it comes to aging." The survey of 1,522 Canadians, conducted in March by the pollingfirm Leger Marketing, found that 24 per cent of the youngestrespondents were "worried" about getting older, comparedwith only seven per cent of those aged 65-plus. The "worried" response in other age categories rangedfrom 12 per cent for the 55-to-64 set to 17 per cent for those aged35 to 44. Only the 18-to-24 age group had a majority of respondents 56 percent say they were "worried" or "somewhatworried" about getting older. The lowest combined rate ofworry was found among the 65-plus group: 38 per cent.
When it came to concerns about physical health, only 10 per cent ofsenior citizens said they worried again, the lowest result amongall age groups. Respondents aged 35 to 44 (20 per cent) and 18 to24 (18 per cent) expressed the most worry about their physicalhealth. The youngest respondents were most concerned about the state oftheir mental health, with 20 per cent of the 18-to-24 groupdescribing themselves as "worried" and another 31 percent saying they were "somewhat worried." Canadians 65and older were by far the least "worried" (3.5 per cent)and also the least likely to say they were "somewhatworried" (18 per cent). A similar pattern emerged in response to the question about death.While 51 per cent of the youngest adults said they were worried tosome extent about death the highest rate of concern among allage groups the second-oldest Canadians (26 per cent) and oldestCanadians (25 per cent) were least likely to say they were worriedor somewhat worried. Asked if the results suggest Canadian seniors may be"whistling past the graveyard" and unwilling to admittheir fears about advanced age, ACS executive director Jack Jedwabacknowledged that possibility.
But he also said the country'soldest citizens may be genuinely "optimistic about theirhealth" in an era when medical advances and overall fitnesslevels defy the "worst expectations" of old age. "It's our perception that older people are more preoccupied byaging, but I think they may also be adjusting to the change,"said Jedwab. Society "may have conditioned them to have worseexpectations" and that "improvements in our healthconditions" may have, in the 21st century, eased many olderCanadians' anxieties about entering the autumn of their lives. "Those things condition our responses," he said."But that's not to say (seniors) aren't eventually going toput more pressure on Canada's health and social services." The survey, which was conducted online via web panels, isconsidered accurate to within 2.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
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