What it means to be a senior
As society now prepares for the second wave of Covid-19, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Seniors Day – which must be revered more than ever this year. Indeed, you are the ones who have learned so much, seen so much and lived so much. You have added a sizeable chapter to your history during the current pandemic and have shown exceptional courage and exemplary resilience in more than difficult circumstances. For all of this and much more, my greatest wish would be to honour you in style. However, the resurgence of the virus has other plans. And so, we must continue to be wise, as danger still lurks about. I remain optimistic though, as we will no longer accept the unacceptable.
With these few words, my humble desire is to send you a ray of hope. If we can change our outlook to see the gains we’ve made during this pandemic, it’s clear that some major societal shortcomings have been unearthed; shortcomings which have swirled around seniors for much too long. And since it often takes bottoming out to bounce back, this second wave is an opportunity for all of us to act – to prove that we have learned and to not repeat our missteps.
The urgency to understand the issues
But what has been done thus far to show the lack of respect experienced by our seniors? The many deaths linked to the pandemic, the living in anonymity and solitude, the lack of care and resources – has this not outraged Quebec as a whole? It is beyond urgent to resolve the societal issues surrounding seniors. Covid-19 has proven that we’ve reached the limit of what is acceptable. It is at the expense of so many lives, that consciences are finally awakening. That said, for change to occur, we must understand the issues affecting this segment of the population. This is what, in my opinion, should now be at the top of the agenda for decision-makers and the community.
What exactly do we need to understand, you may ask? Well, we finally have to realize that everyone is equal, young and old alike. Further than that, we must recognize people as individuals – not as “elders", "children" or “adults". We can begin by no longer categorizing people by putting them in boxes and wrongly thinking we understand them better and know what they need. I believe these generalities are our worst enemy, as they are the ones that, for example, confined all seniors during a pandemic.
Are there any solutions?
Like you, I question myself for the purpose of better understanding our society in order to find solutions. I simply believe (even more so, since the unfortunate events of the health crisis), that the disregard and generalization of the elderly deserves as much outrage from the community as any other form of inequity. The cooperation and solidarity of a people who respect the differences of their community can accomplish remarkable things. No one can fight alone to successfully advance a cause. So… what if we were a little less selfish and a lot more considerate to all of you older people?
All this introspection has influenced my perception of my role as a business leader, of what I have defended since the start of my career; namely, the healthy aging of seniors in society. Today, I am even more convinced of the importance of Groupe Maurice's mission and its cause. I see our struggles with even greater clarity: for as long as government authorities and the community at large talk about retirees as everyone over 65 or 75 years old, we’ll never be able to achieve healthy aging in the community as a whole. We cannot claim there’s a single recipe that caters to such a diversity of elderly people. How can a 75-year-old of sound body and mind, be happy when told what to do, when he or she has more experience and knowledge than the majority of the population?
On this Seniors Day, it is therefore my deepest wish, that the world respect the individual in all his uniqueness. That as of today, there will be zero tolerance for the collective indifference of the elderly. This is no longer just a quest for your well-being, but for the mindfulness of our different wants and needs. Whether we are 35, 60 or 85 years old.
As long as there is neutrality and a denial of each person’s uniqueness, respect will never be attainable. Between you and me, even the word "elder" is a misnomer! It expresses exactly what we should be trying to move away from. Elder, or senior, in my opinion, is too encompassing a term. It means "older than another", which is far too relative – especially today, in a society where many older people are as vibrant as those half their age!
Despite all this debate, I remain optimistic. By being rational in the face of our responsibility during this demanding period and being aware of each person's individuality – regardless of their age, health, education, preferences or even personality – we will arrive at a change of attitude and culture. And when opinion changes, the world can change. By banking on our finest human qualities and respective differences, believe me, we will walk towards more glorious horizons. And the seniors of tomorrow will be even happier!
Happy Seniors Day to you all!