The financial twilight zone

Ed
Ed Smith
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They call it "the Golden Years." Most people are happy to reach that coveted time in one's life, but having made it, many of them are prone to wonder why it's called that. The conclusion, and probably an accurate one, is that the later years were called golden by someone who had never made it that far.

As a matter of fact, most of the so-called "truisms" of the senior years are concocted by people who aren't seniors. It's the same as with child-rearing experts. Practically all of them are people who don't have children.

The view from here - They call it "the Golden Years." Most people are happy to reach that coveted time in one's life, but having made it, many of them are prone to wonder why it's called that. The conclusion, and probably an accurate one, is that the later years were called golden by someone who had never made it that far.

As a matter of fact, most of the so-called "truisms" of the senior years are concocted by people who aren't seniors. It's the same as with child-rearing experts. Practically all of them are people who don't have children.

The experts on old age tell us that people die because they expect to and not because they're sick. The people I know in that category may not expect to but they certainly hope to, and hope is a much stronger word than expect. Fact is, most of those who hope to don't.

That same crowd tells us we can have sex into our nineties. They don't add we had better learn to have it with ourselves because finding a partner might be a bit iffy.

We're told to stop smoking and lay off drinking if we expect a healthy old age. The other day in England, a man ran a marathon at 104 years of age. It took him five hours because he had to stop now and then for a pint of ale and to reload his pipe. The picture the papers had of him showed that he hadn't shaved in at least a hundred years. The next thing the experts on old age will be telling us is that the longer the hair is on our head the longer we can expect to live.

The only experts on how to climb Mount Everest are the people who have climbed it. The only experts on marriage are people who are married. And the only experts on old age are people who are old.

Which reminds me - we are always being reminded to be politically correct in our speech. Thus we don't call seniors' homes old-age homes or old-people's homes or homes for the aged anymore.

Yet the federal government gets away with calling seniors' pensions old-age pensions. Since seniors, by sheer numbers, are now getting to be the largest group of voters in the country, I think we should demand that they cease and desist that kind of age-prejudiced labelling.

All of which is by way of getting around to what this column is all about - "the golden years." I suppose that's to reflect the idea that one's senior years are the best years: the gold-plated years, the gold medal of life.

One thing is certain, for a great many people living their golden years, gold has nothing to do with hard cash because they don't have any. Many live on the bottom side of the poverty line, barely able to keep body and soul together.

Yet it is in those same golden years that health declines and medical costs increase, often far beyond the ability of older people to pay. The latest dramatic example we have of this is the need for home care for those who are on the borderline of being able to afford it.

I couldn't believe that in the surplus budget of this suddenly rich province there is literally nothing for the thousands of seniors who somehow have to survive on pitifully low incomes with not enough left over for their health needs. I had to resist the urge to throw up when someone in either bureaucracy or government - I forget which - when faced with that reality blandly asserted they were taking their time to come up with "a long-term solution."

Seniors desperately in need of financial aid don't have the luxury of waiting for a long-term solution. But this fellow was far removed in age from the seniors' ranks and so perhaps could be forgiven for not recognizing the stupidity and harshness of his statement.

But neither he nor anyone else in government can be excused first, for not recognizing the plight of those people, and secondly, for doing nothing about it. I know they don't recognize the situation because to know about it and then do nothing is beyond what can be expected of a civilized and caring government.

We elect governments to look after us. When they don't have the financial ability to do that to the standard we would like, that's one thing. When the money is there for practically everything else, and with a substantial surplus, then not acting to give our seniors some semblance of a reasonable living is beyond my understanding.

So what can we do about it? We have to make noise, and when I say "we" I don't mean just seniors. Perhaps the largest organized institution in our society is the church. The church is also supposed to be the most caring. Perhaps I'm not listening carefully enough, but in any case, the churches don't seem to be shouting very loudly.

Who more should be taking up the cudgels on behalf of people who largely cannot act for themselves? I can hear people saying that the church cannot get involved in politics. How about getting involved in the needs of the people? What comes first here, politics or protecting the life-and-death situations so many find themselves in?

I believe strongly the leadership of those churches should be shouting loud and long over the injustice we're all witnessing. I know it's a long way removed both in years and in scope, but the church in Europe was also very silent during the years of the Nazi regime.

Our government isn't to be compared by any means to the Nazis, but there is a wrong being committed here and I don't think any of us are making enough noise about it.

Tell me if I'm wrong.

Ed Smith lives in Springdale. His e-mail address is edsmith@persona.ca.

Geographic location: England, Mount Everest, Europe Springdale

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