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RE-IMAGINE AGING: Adding Life to Years

A revolution in caring for our aging and frail seniors has begun. Ageism is recognized and abhorred by older seniors, their children and grandchildren. Elderhood is now understood as a period of life which should and must provide meaning and a high standard of living to older seniors. The stark demographic shift of aging older adults has been thrust into the spotlight and our organization, Jewish Seniors Alliance, has responded with vibrant programs.

Jewish Senior Alliance’s Commitment to Elders

JSA’s Peer Support Services include free counselling, friendly home visits, telephone calls, bereavement support, accompaniment to medical appointments and a referral hot line. Our Advocacy and Outreach programs take the forms of a magazine Senior Line, published 3 times a years, a website www. with an Events Calendar, and our four Empowerment Seminars, Spring Forum and Fall Symposium—all of which provide extensive reporting and presentations on current issues and existing programs for the elderly.

B.C. Care Providers

B.C.’s health system is not prepared for the challenges of its aging population which includes 25,000 seniors living in long-term residential care facilities. The B.C. Care Providers Association recommends that B.C. improve services to seniors in the community with the goal of the province becoming “an aging centre of excellence.” This will require more funding and changes in policy: Improvements in dementia training of caregivers and developing new continuing care models with an emphasis on caring for seniors in their own residences.

Developing Better Alternatives to a Difficult Situation

The deficiencies of our present municipal, provincial and federal policies are recognized. More professional caregivers must be trained and budgets must be enlarged. Society is in the midst of a major transition and transformation— largely due to advancing technology. There is hope that the young adults of today will play a key role in this transition as they have the experience of growing up with various technologies and social media in a way that older generations did not. New technologies offer the opportunity to bring people closer together (for example, by facilitating communication over long distances with ‘Face Time’ and ‘Skype’).

“The stark demographic shift of aging older adults has been thrust into the spotlight and our organization, Jewish Seniors Alliance, has responded with vibrant programs.”


Robots are being developed as an innovative means of caring for the cognitively impaired. Residential facilities are being designed or retroactively renovated to create improved living spaces for people with dementia.Technology can be used to help seniors living in their own homes avoid social isolation through home health monitoring and increasing their Internet access. “On demand telehealth is in growth ode in B.C. with a handful of businesses putting patients in video contact with a doctor over smartphones, home computers or in specially equipped consultation rooms.”

Evolving Attitudes towards Dementia

Most importantly, attitudes towards dementia are evolving. With education and guidance, caregivers can learn to interact with cognitively impaired seniors in more humane, less stressful ways. University students are living in seniors’ residences to the advantage of both populations. A Toronto long-term care centre houses a daycare that brings children by to play with residents. Prevention and retardation of the development of dementia is at the forefront of scientific research. We encourage the establishment of a Provincial Seniors Safety Strategy focusing on falls prevention, residenton-resident aggression, reducing adverse medication events, suicide prevention, and elder abuse.

What does it take to create caring communities?

The bottom line is: if we want to live in a caring community, then we have to do our part to make it happen. When individuals are separated from their biological families, one can intentionally create support networks with people of your choosing. Whatever your interest is, whether it is owning a dog, or folk dancing, or working out at a gym, friendships and support systems can be formed. A group of single women can live together and take care of each other.

Non-profit organizations, such as Jewish Seniors Alliance, are working tirelessly to get more governmental financial support for services for the elderly. CARP is launching its new Dementia Campaign, calling for immediate action to address the glaring gaps in the system, including the lack of support (limited financial support and no training) for caregivers. It is our responsibility to ‘add life to years,’ to create a society that values its elders by providing the necessary services and the respect and dignity they deserve.

Dolores Luber