With Winter's arrival, we know we will be sliding down our driveways to put the garbage out, or driving home from work to find our street parking space occupied by a Titanic-iceberg sized snowbank. Amusing, of course. We will slug it out, won’t we? Because we’re Canadians right? We know winter and how to take care of ourselves during the cruelest season.
But what about the seasons of our lives, our stages? What about the care we receive during our senior years where we can expect to live into our mid 70’s and beyond? What care will we receive then? Aging is the one car crash that we tend to look away from. Instead of wondering how best to navigate it, we would all rather avoid thinking about it entirely. Yet, we need to plan our lives better, ensure some healthcare for us all, right? I mean, Canada invented (based on the UK system) it, and our neighbours to the south often refer to it as an example of good social contract.
Canada, I’m going to have to hand in my ‘nice’ passport and tell you an uncomfortable truth. We are heading towards a healthcare disaster. If hallway medicine for acute care in hospitals at present is any horror now, we will soon see longterm care patients, who really shouldn’t be ‘hospital patients’ at all, hanging out in those hallways too, or worse, being being hung out to dry entirely.
Remember the nanny suite? When elderly parents returned to the home? Nanny suites used to be a fairly common house feature in open houses, but less common now, as the cost of living demands a two-parent income. Besides, do our ‘seniors’ really want to return to their kids’ houses? Do we even have room when our own kids can’t afford to move out of the basement? There’s a pattern here- and it’s in dollars and doesn’t make any sense.
We, (read economists and people who are very good at adding and subtracting in their heads), will need to formulate an affordability plan that makes living, literally, affordable. Oh- but what about OHIP covered long term healthcare facilities? There aren’t any. This is where a major gap, an enormous crack in our Canadian healthcare iceberg lies. While our medical system is very good at fixing leaks, gun shot wounds, broken legs, or heart attacks, our long term care side has been slipping. Overstretched healthcare workers and Canadian families are at the end of their financial and psychological ropes, struggling to find the kind of care needed for their loved ones. So what are we to do? Are we to deem those over a certain amount of care unaffordable? Certainly I don’t wish to be a financial burden on my kids when I’m older (although I might want to get back at them for all their hockey and university fees- just joking kids!). And what of the spiritual needs, the community belonging needs, of our aging population? Are they no longer valuable members as they no longer fit a capitalist notion of productivity as either product consumers or producers?
We would best fix this fast and soon. And I believe it is fixable with courageous political, community led support, and the will to look into the not too distant future; at 46 years old, I am middle aged and who is to say what my long term health will be? If artificial intelligence continues to overtake our future workforce, and this seems inevitable as much as we know from history and the industrial revolution, we will have our own robotic one. What if AI and its fancy algorithms deems an aging human too draining on the system, obsolete, unworthy? This isn’t science fiction. If AI continues to model its behaviour on our current standard of care, as it currently models itself on our quotidian behaviours such as opening doors, and making sushi, we would be wise to be kinder to each other. Much, much kinder.