In Québec, improvements in living conditions, advances in medicine and health care and access to education mean that current generations are living longer and are healthier than previous generations.

Increased life expectancy is a major success. Longevity has many advantages, both for individuals and communities.

However, perceptions of aging have changed little and many people are still afraid of growing old. Preconceptions about older adults persist and older adults say that they are still ignored, treated like children and victims of prejudice.

Changing perceptions

Getting old is often associated with an overall decline in health and the development of various forms of limitations. Yet, most people age 65 and older describe their health as good, very good or excellent.

Participation in society

Many older adults are active in all spheres of society. They put their experience to use for the good of all and include:

  • volunteers;
  • elected officials;
  • consumers;
  • workers;
  • donors;
  • voters;
  • family caregivers;
  • mentors;
  • students;
  • musicians;
  • authors.

Older adults must be given an opportunity to keep or take their place in society. Their citizen and social participation, be it volunteer or paid, contributes to the vitality of communities and needs to be encouraged and supported.

Effects of the social inclusion of older adults

Social inclusion gives older adults a sense of purpose, of accomplishment and of belonging to the community. It allows older adults to stay active and to continue to contribute to the development of society based on their needs, preferences and abilities. Social participation fosters ties that prevent isolation.

Impact of stereotypes and prejudice

Stereotypes and prejudice such as ageism can lead to discriminatory practices that devalue older adults’ experience and expertise. Due to a lack of social recognition, older adults may turn inward, feel fragile and useless and have low self-esteem. These phenomena lead to isolation and withdrawal from all forms of involvement in society.

It is important to take action, in particular by recognizing the value of older adults and their contribution to society.