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“This whole show should be about staying alive not death.” remarks my pal Donna who I have recruited for this little research project. “Where’s the zest for life – travel, adventure, social aspects?”

She’s right. You walk in and the first display is for funeral services. Then you’re faced with a row of health related products and services, a strong dose of nutritional supplements and everything you need to relieve some kind of pain. Then I get it, the show is organized by theme: health, faith, money, lifestyle and travel.

They rented a giant colon

Lifestyle as a category has promise until you notice that this isle focuses on insurance, nutrition, downsizing, senior care, retirement homes and communities and the ultimate, memorial services. This is not my aspiration for a Zoomer lifestyle. Let me put it this way – there was only one booth devoted to golf.

Zoomers Awesomely Ageless Boomers

You are a BOOMER if your birthday falls between 1946 and 1964. No other qualifications necessary. ZOOMER™ status must is achieved by adopting what the author calls the traits of a ZOOMER™ lifestyle.

These new boomers are coloring outside the lines, zig-zaging and zoooooming toward a bright new horizon chock-full of possibilities for reinventing retirement and redefining what it means to be a mature adult in the new millennium.
Source:www.demko.com/zoomers.htm

Donna and I arrived at the show at about 10:30am and faced a sea of seniors. By the time we left, around 1pm, there seemed to be a younger cast to the audience but in the end, the booths defined the show so given how demanding boomers and Zoomers are, there’s nothing to bring them back.

Instead of offering seniors’ services how about services that free me from day to day chores and worries so that I can go out and have fun. Where are the pampering services that I’m willing to pay for such as spas or personal trainers. There’s no zoomer fitness, just your choice of rehab or clubs for the young and fit.

Sign me up

And here’s a great opportunity missed by this show – where are the booths to offer Zoomers (and seniors) challenging and rewarding volunteer or part time work? There are lots of causes in Toronto needing help and this is an experienced group looking for a meaningful way to get engaged. Instead it’s the usual medical causes, looking for donations and scaring you into watching your health.

Going forward, I’d say “seniors” should definitively get one isle to represent the eventual but the rest should offer us some fun and challenge, supporting our conviction that this won’t be an ordinary retirement.

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I think this is less a topic of age but of ability. At some point we will be less able to take care of ourselves. There are a variety of reasons why this will happen but when that time comes, who can we turn to? If we are lucky enough to have friends or family that are helping us, who can they turn to for help and advice?

We’ve always had a relatively young country and in Toronto, where I live, the self image is youthful. But the statistics are showing us that this is not the case.

The Older Dependency Ratio is a measure of the pressure on a community as the population ages. In 2006 Toronto had 25.3 people aged 56+ for every 100 people aged 20-64. Source: Toronto Vital Signs 2009 (tcf.ca)

Right now, I have several friends that are dealing with aging parents. For some, the challenges are health related requiring changes in lifestyle and a critical approach to health care. For others, the challenges are more mental health where the ability to make decisions is impaired and at an extreme, living alone becomes a dangerous choice.

There is a lack of knowledge of where to go, who can help, what to ask for and general education. There are resources out there but I suspect there are not nearly enough for the demand that is to come.  And as we prepare for our own inevitability, now would be the time to prepare and investigate these options.

So where does volunteerism fit into this picture?

My mother, who lives in Florida, has had a career of providing home care for the disabled, many being seniors. She says there is a crying need for intermediaries to advise and assist seniors with life management issues. Sometimes an able mind, with a sensible approach to health, financial and life planning offers a great deal of comfort. The conflicting input from doctors, family members, financial advisors, and friends is tough to sort through at any age, but when the issues are critical and your capacity limited, the challenges are frightening.  Can you imagine being in this position and then having a court appointed guardian suddenly deciding your fate?

So I’m asking – what kind of volunteer organizations or branches of existing health organizations can we build to offer tiers of support for our aging population? Can we have cooperation of health care professionals, mental health experts, advocates and specialized volunteers all working together to build a safety net for individuals and families when the inevitable happens?

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