By N Oji Mzilikazi
By N Oji Mzilikazi
Originally appeared in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 27, Number 21 October 17, 2019
Aging is an inevitable aspect of living. Its absence from general school curricula has generation after generation of young adults living in the moment, not thinking or planning too far ahead, thus ignorant and unprepared for retirement and old age. The unpreparedness is exacerbated when leadership couldn’t be bothered to dispense advice regarding planning for old age and there are no peers to encourage same.
Add to the mix expressions and idealised notions regarding aging, like “aging gracefully,” “golden years” “good old age,” and “age brings reason,” and entrenched is the perception of a certain amount of esteem and comfort with age. The reality is far from. Studies show the elderly have high poverty rates, and are a vulnerable population.
Quebec government pension kicks in at 60. Work history determines the amount. Canada federal pension kicks in at 65. To qualify for the maximum payout ($600+) one had to have resided in Canada for 40 years, after the age of 18.
Consider the concept of “working under the table”: A citizen or landed immigrant might believe they are getting over by having no taxes deducted from source by their employer; they have more disposable income. The employer might encourage and support the practice to exploit the worker and to cheat the government. But by not paying into the system; not having a work history, they cannot collect any pension from Quebec. The same goes for hustlers and those, who, barring medical condition, scorn work.
Age is something that silently creeps up on us. Aging shouldn’t catch you unawares. Plan for your retirement. If you already have, great! Even if it’s too late for you, you can still save a life by encouraging your children, your grandchildren and the younger people you know to pursue meaningful employment, invest, save; put aside money for a rainy day and their retirement, and if self-employed, make sure to pay into the system.
Why prepare for retirement? To maintain your lifestyle/afford the retirement you want. You could be forced into early retirement by cutbacks or health. You can’t borrow money for retirement. It costs more to live longer. Inflation will take a chunk out of your savings. You will probably need long-term care. Your children might not be financially independent and able or willing to contribute to your support. Health care costs keep rising.
Bear in mind the adage, “No one plans to fail; people fail to plan.”
N Oji Mzilikazi is the author of Shards of Glass and president of the Council for Black Aging Community of Montreal Inc.
The Council’s 18th Conference, Health & Wellness: Beating The Odds takes place October 26, 2019, at Le Nouvel Hotel &Spa Info: 514-935-4951
By N Oji Mzilikazi
Originally appeared in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 27, Number 20, October 3, 2019
Given size of community, we’ve all known someone or heard stories of members who died alone in their home and whose body was only discovered days later.
Per a CTV Montreal January 2019 article: “An estimated one in five seniors in Quebec doesn’t have anyone to check in on them or call when they need help.” Statistics for our native-born Black and West Indian/Caribbean anglophone community are anyone’s guess.
Quebec’s aggressive French language (and culture) policies and push for separation from Canada resulted in an anglophone exodus—that included our children—our skilled, trained and educated youths, to other provinces or other counties. The more families are spread geographically…
Add divorce in the late 50s and 60s, bereavement, widowhood, a lifetime of solo female parenting, and lengthening lifespans to the mix. Throw in the West Indian privacy culture of “Ah doh want nobody to know meh business,” and one cannot but deduce that our community is worse off when it comes to loneliness and social isolation.
One of the inevitable consequences of retirement is the reduction of one’s social network and fracturing of bonds; diminished or loss of touch with friends and coworkers.
Loneliness affects health and well being—one’s mental and physical health. When it comes to seniors, an already vulnerable population—plagued by retirement unpreparedness, money problems/low pension payments/inadequacy of retirement pension, ill-health, reduced mobility, pricey medication, feelings of worthlessness after a life of work, productivity and contribution, its impact is devastatingly worse.
Loneliness is linked to increased mental health issues, depression, alcohol and prescription drug abuse, personal care neglect, poor eating habits, increased risk of chronic health issues such as diabetes, and even early death.
A UK study found loneliness and social isolation were “risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke.”
At the British Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) 2017 annual conference, Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, the head of Britain GPs make known, “Social isolation and loneliness are akin to a chronic long-term condition in terms of the impact they have on our patients’ health and wellbeing.”
One of the takeaways from a British year long study of loneliness, the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness is loneliness is a giant evil of our time.
The United Kingdom introduced a minister for loneliness in January 2018.
New research shows Canada’s elderly population is growing increasingly lonely and isolated.
Research by professor Norah Keating suggests immigrant seniors in Canada from non-European countries are “more lonely.” Clinical psychologist Ami Rokach says, “loneliness in seniors is a public health crisis comparable to obesity.”
As much as there are persons who enjoy being alone or don’t care for company—without being lonely, humankind is overwhelmingly social by nature. Humans have an innate need for company.
Reasons include fellowship, community, emotional comfort, a sense of security, stability, protection, self-esteem, a sense of place, a sense of value, a sense of appreciation— and sanity.
Last month the CAQ government announced $280 million for home care in addition to the $1.5 billion the ministry already spends annually. Loneliness wasn’t a thought.
As a society/as a community, we ought not to wait/cannot afford to wait for the government to come up with strategies to combat loneliness. We must do our part.
Rebuild your social network. Volunteer and/or join a club/organization or activity/interest group and enrich your life.
N Oji Mzilikazi is the author of Shards of Glass and president of the Council For Black Aging Community of Montreal Inc.
The Council hosts its 18th Conference, Health & Wellness: Beating The Odds on October 26, 2019 at Le Nouvel Hotel & Spa.
By N Oji Mzilikazi
1 August 2019
My book of poems titled Shards Of Glass has dropped.
As per its blurb:
Shards of Glass is rooted in social commentary, spiritual awareness and matters of the heart; love, sex and relationships. It taps into the joys, hopes, frustrations and experiences common to all, and explores themes extracted from Mr. Mzilikazi’s island culture. Themes that along with the vision, perspective, and strength of language contained therein, add a unique colour and lustre not found in other poetic works.
By N Oji Mzilikazi
An abridged version was presented at:
The Council for Black Aging Community of Montreal 2018 Conference:
Strategies to Maximize Better Aging
Saturday, 27 October 2018
Le Nouvel Hotel and Spa
1740 René-Lévesque Blvd. W,
Montreal, QC H3H 1R3
Hereunder is the Full Text:
Where do I begin? The organizers of this Conference told me I’ll be speaking before a group of seniors. Lo and behold! All I see before me are teenagers; folks with delicate sensibilities. An age group known to blush when it comes to sensitive topics like intimacy, relationships, finding companionship and sex. And so, I beg your forgiveness in advance, for all and any discomfort.
When, like me, you attain the ripe old age of 21, you will discover that a lifetime of learning, conditioning, experience, habits, attitudes and beliefs often create a fixed and unswaying mindset. The This is how I am, this is what I think, this is what I believe, this is how I feel and I aint changing for nobody.
For those persons, reality or truth does not matter. Their being and sense of self is anchored to their mindset. Present facts, point out contradictions or any sort of pigheadedness, much more insinuate they are arguing from a wrong perspective, and they dig deeper in defense of position. Your argument or “truth” bolstered by facts undermines their very sense of self. They feel under attack and lash out.
U.S. President Donald Trump is the perfect example of someone with a fix, and one could argue, a fossilised mindset. As the record/his tweets and speeches show, his opinion, beliefs and feelings are more important than truth, studies, facts and evidence.
Luckily, this audience comprise inquisitive and perceptive minds; persons who can put side their feelings and opinions and look at things clinically; from the perspective of facts and studies.
Humans are social by nature. Because of our hard-wring we can mirror, and match each other thinking and emotions, anticipate, leak emotions to each other, feel for each other, and empathize with others. Consequently, humans have an innate need to belong; an innate need to connect with others, to share emotions and stories with others, and an innate need to live, move, and be in the company of like-minded people. The “Birds of a feather flock together” adage.
Since humans are social beings, we have families, bond with others, and live in communities.
Belong to a group and being in the company of others give humans a sense of acceptance, security, protection and stability. A sense of emotional comfort, being liked or loved, a sense of pride and self-esteem, a sense of place, a sense of value, a sense of appreciation, also joy and contentment.
For that reason, children who feel neglected, unloved, and not appreciated, and could very well be, are susceptible to being recruited by gangs or might willingly join a gang or sub-culture group.
They give them the connection and sense of acceptance and belonging they desperately crave. They facilitate the human hard-wiring of belonging to a social group and the benefits and sharing of experiences, life’s highs and lows that qualify the human experience.
Technology has made our ability to connect with friends and family in faraway places easy and normal. And as much as we speak to them every day, even see their faces on our cellphone or tablet, it is not the same as having them beside you or having someone lying next to you in the same bed, or in another room and bed because of their snoring, or being in the same place at the same time with others, or getting together for a meal, a drink, an activity or simply to chat. For, if you live alone and self-isolate, when that 5 minutes or hour of conversation ends, you are back to being with the television or radio as sole companions.
In addition to being social beings, humans are sexual creatures with instinctual sexual desires and sexual urges.
Consider: The warmest part of the human body is that area between the legs. For that reason, cold hands are instinctively thrust there. Placing hands near our genitals is an unconscious sexual reminder.
Young children fondle their genitals without any sexual thoughts whatsoever. Males are known to unconsciously sleep with a hand on their genitals. Males, including infants have automatic erections daily, even while asleep.
Besides effectuating sexual awareness, erections are a male health gauge. Their frequency and degree of hardness is maintained or diminished according to the degree of healthiness.
Puberty accentuates sexual awareness. While puberty in boys are usually allowed to run its course, pubic hair, the emergence and growth of breasts in girls combined with commencement of menstruation bring on parental warnings, lectures, and insistence of specific codes of behaviour and consciousness of attire.
Since humankind is overwhelmingly heterosexual, males and females are innately drawn towards members of the opposite sex.
The bond of attraction between a male and a female; be it sexual or otherwise, can be extremely powerful. History tells of men who abdicated thrones, position, titles and wealth for the love of a woman, and of women being disowned by family because of their love of a male.
Wars, feuds and murder have been instigated by sex and/or the love of a woman. Many a mighty man has been humbled or put to death because of love of a woman, sex.
Sex is natural, normal, intoxicating, powerful and most important, healthy.
For all the prudery many religiously-minded folks are known to engage in, in the King James Christian Bible, Deuteronomy 24: 5 instructs employers to, and I quote, “Give a man a year off from work to pleasure his new wife.” The key word is “pleasure.”
Listen to the pronouncement again: “Give a man a year off from work to pleasure his new wife.”
Proverbs.5: 18-19 enjoins a man to, and I quote, “Rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.”
Not only does the Bible sanction sexual pleasure in the husband-wife relationship, the Good Book advocates human companionship.
While some Christian faiths like Roman Catholicism preach the divorced ought not to remarry and quote the Apostle Paul in the process (If a wife leaves her husband, she should remain unmarried.), Deuteronomy 24:1-2 make clear that unhappiness in marriage can be remedied and that marriage is not until “death do us part.” Deuteronomy 24:1-2 states: “Write her a bill of divorcement…she may go and be another man’s wife.”
Unlike animals whose mating is biologically driven – solely to procreate, and either seasonal and/or condition based, there are male species in the animal kingdom that will kill the young offspring of a female, just to engender the mating urge in her, so she can produce his offspring, human sexual intercourse need not result in offspring.
Humans can engage in sexual intercourse anytime they desire, irrespective to time, place, or mood, and have sex simply for pleasure.
Putting aside the font of pleasure from great and mind-blowing sex, sexual intercourse delivers a multitude of health benefits.
Sex exercises the entire body; the heart, lungs, muscles, limbs and bones.
In sex, both the penis and vagina get a good working out and that contribute to keeping them healthy.
The contortions and bending; the throwing legs here, there, that different positions require work the body. Thus, sex is an exercise. Exercise prompts perspiration. Sex is known to make its participants more than perspire. Sex bring on panting, heavy breathing and faster heartbeats which increase blood flow and work the lungs. Sex can have one sweating. Sweating cleans pores. The rubbing, writhing, and riding up of bodies inadvertently exfoliates; clean, remove dead skin.
The exertion and exercise that defines sex cannot but burn calories. So, sex has the potential to help one lose a little weight.
Sex has a positive influence on one’s mental, emotional and psychological health.
Sex releases endorphins into the blood stream. Endorphins engender a mental high, elevate one sense of well-being, also deliver a state of calm/relaxation or release copious amounts of energy. Sex energises. Sex heals — relieves headaches and tension. So, when a person invokes a headache to avoid sex… They just do not want to have sex with you – then.
Sex is an attraction magnet. Sex is a beauty treatment. Sex increases the production of estrogen in females which makes them glow and radiate sexual attractiveness. The sexually active body releases pheromones that the opposite sex pick up on. Anyone who understands the ways of sex can tell when a young girl becomes sexually active as well as who is or isn’t getting their groove on.
Sex is a natural tranquillizer. It engenders long and deep sleep.
The only drawbacks to sex are tiredness, sore sexual organs, sore limbs, a sore back, and mismatched sexual appetites; a person wanting more with a person incapable of giving more. And I’m not talking about those with insatiable sexual appetites. They’re in a class all by themselves.
As much as sexual desire, sexual passion and the ability to swing from chandeliers diminishes with age, our social hard-wiring; the need for companionship and intimacy doesn’t – even when there is mutual separation, hurt and pain from abandonment by a mate or divorce, or death of a dearly beloved spouse or lover brought an end to a happy long-lasting relationship.
As much as we feel, That’s it! Not me again, my life is over, I don’t want anyone else. I would never love again. I would never live with another person again. I would never share my life with another again, one ought to bear in mind that the sun still appears – and shine bright the day after the worst day of our life or the worst disaster that occurred. And loneliness leads to people being envious, bitter, miserable, cantankerous, quarrelsome, unhappy, temperamental, moody and quick to hate on others.
And as much as we withdraw from friends and the world or immerse ourselves in organizations or in places of worship in the belief we have already and truly lived a full life, or to forget, heal or to replace the ache or hole in hearts or to simply not deal with others, humans at their core are social animals with an innate need for connection – companionship – to talk – to share emotions and stories.
Just as love transcends sex, so does intimacy and companionship.
Even when the fires of sexual desire are extinguished in seniors or seniors are physically incapable of engaging in sexual intercourse, companionship and intimacy allow the flames of life to burn brightly in hearts, breasts and chests. Companionship and intimacy give them additional reasons to laugh and live.
Forgetting intimacy, how and where does a senior find companionship you ask? They are each a million-dollar question that I cannot answer, but this I can say with certainty, not online.
When it comes to seniors, especially those that didn’t come of age in the digital world, online is fraught with dangers. People skillfully lie and, in the process fake personas; construct a fake life, a fake personal history and present false images/photos of themselves. So, while dating sites have their merits, the brain’s slowed and slowing down process of processing information opens a fault line of vulnerability in seniors that “love bandits” exploit.
For a multitude of reasons and through no fault of their own, seniors are a vulnerable group. The degree of vulnerability tends to increase the older they become, the more dependent they become, and when their mind/mental processing has slowed down, and when in the face of diminished capabilities, they think of themselves as fully functional, autonomous, and able to make well-informed decisions, especially financial. Thus, predators have no qualms about exploiting or robbing seniors.
When it comes to seniors, dissolution of a long marriage or a long-term relationship, the death of a spouse/lover or companion and children living elsewhere are harbingers of loneliness.
For financial gain, “love bandits” and “emotional predators” that include seniors, will fake interest in a senior, pretend they like him or her, mentally and emotionally seduce the senior and cruelly abuse his/her loneliness to get at their savings or property.
While I gladly endorse, have no qualms about suggesting to seniors looking for companionship to go to places where they might meet people with similar interests as a baseline of sorts; to look persons in the eye, observe their ways, and make judgements about personality and character, and one can pursue various lines of inquires from friends, acquaintances and others about a senior met in person than one befriended online, no place, not even church is a haven for those that prey on seniors. The public record is rife with seniors losing home, all their life-savings and even having their lives snatched–taken by “love bandits” and “emotional predators.”
Often, when single seniors have succeeded in finding companionship, the relationship comes under fire from children and even grandchildren. While there could be merit in their concerns, sometimes their objection is rooted in the financial. They fear the prospective good times that the relationship brings; the going out and doing things will decrease her/his bank account and the money they stand to get from the parent or grandparent. Also, the active life the relationship engenders might limit babysitting reliance.
To reiterate, humans at their core are social animals with an innate need to connect with like-minded others, to have friends, find companionship, engage in relationships, to give of themselves, to lie naked in bed and expose their beauty or lack thereof as well as their warts to their choice of companionship, to talk, and to share emotions and stories.
Single seniors need companionship to live happier and better lives. Companionship has nothing to do with sex, even if sex is one of its by-products and a benefit.
In conclusion, I leave you with following lines from the Desiderata:
“With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”
By N Oji Mzilikazi
1 August 2018
By N Oji Mzilikazi
By N Oji Mzilikazi
11 July 2018
By N Oji Mzilikazi
4 February 2018