2005-02-04 / Columnists

Chatting With Chapey

Seniors: Creating A Social Revolution
by Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey, Democratic District Leader

Dr. Geraldine Chapey
Dr. Geraldine Chapey This is the second in a series of articles that I am writing on senior issues. The material for these articles was developed through my chairing two sessions and attending seminars and panels at the first international conference on Aging Well, which was held in Montreal, Canada.

Dr. Daniele Mischlich, a public health doctor and the Paris editor of Masson spoke on “Public Health Policy and a National Aging Well Program: A Cultural Revolution”. He noted that the life span is changing dramatically. Prior to this, one generation followed another successively. If we look at the 18th Century, we find that by thirty years of age most people had lost their mother and their father. Today, however, it is very common to have successive generations living at the same time. Many of our children have the benefit of knowing first hand not only their parents but their grandparents and even their great grandparents. For the first time in our recorded history we find a revolution of longevity – where we have four and sometimes five generations in one family living at the same time. We can attribute this to advances made in science, sanitation, social systems and health programs. There is a sharp increase in the number of people living to be over 65 years of age. Dr. Mischlich noted that in France, the life expectancy is similar to the US. Women who attain 65 years can expect to live 20 more years or longer and men can expect to live 16 years more or longer. These dramatic shifts in longevity are having a profound effect on the different life stages and require a major reassessment of public policy. Currently, health care focuses on curative measures but we need to shift to stressing prevention and quality of life. Healthy aging is of importance to everyone – children, adolescents, adults and seniors.

One of the plenary sessions at the beginning of the conference on aging emphasized the need to attend to the health and welfare of infants and children. At first glance that topic appeared to be out of place. However, Dr. Toni Antonucci, a professor at the University of Michigan, Department of Psychology pointed out the importance of training our children to age well. We need to make them conscious of developing habits and life style behaviors that will serve them well in their youth and allow them to mature and enjoy healthy senior years. Taking a life span and multigenerational approach will help our children to successfully meet the current and future challenges of aging well at every stage in their lives. The areas that need to be addressed are psychological, social and health issues, work/retirement, spiritual, legal and financial issues, and family and societal responsibilities.

At this first International conference in Montreal, there was an opportunity for theory and practice to come together. Dr. Jane Barratt, the President of the Scientific Committee in Canada noted that this conference provided the opportunity to take a new look at accumulated knowledge that presently exists in the area of gerontology and to re-analyze the applicability of what we know. The large cohort in the baby boomer generation now reaching their senior years have forced researchers, legislators, policy makers, business, communities and families to focus attention on the needs of this group.

NOTE: Trinity Services third annual luncheon will be held on Friday May 20th at Russo’s on the Bay in Howard Beach. Please plan to join your friends and neighbors at the luncheon from 12 noon to 5 p.m. Please call 718-474-1641 to reserve your tickets. Tickets are $50 each. Tables of 14 are available.

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