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We've got to rethink aging, says gerontologist

Dan Levitt was the guest speaker at a Rotary Club of Tsawwassen meeting Thursday
Gerontologist Dan Levitt spoke to the Rotary Club of Tsawwassen at the Beach Grove Golf Club last Thursday.

We’ve got to rethink aging.

That was the message guest speaker Dan Levitt brought to the Rotary Club of Tsawwassen meeting Thursday.

We operate a “complex archipelago” of old age institutions, he said. There are more nursing homes in Canada than Starbucks coffee shops or McDonald’s restaurants, he added.

“Where are our priorities?” Levitt asked.

He is an adjunct professor in gerontology at Simon Fraser University teaching long term care leadership as well as the executive director of Tabor Village, a seniors’ campus of care, in Abbotsford.

Levitt said we use the word “still” when talking about seniors doing something that younger people do. He gave examples like still driving a car or still going to work every day.

“When seniors can no longer do things that young people can do, what happens to them? They are disappeared.”

Levitt said if the right technology could be provided to seniors, along with advance planning, aging in place would be possible and seniors could avoid moving into nursing homes.

Nationally there are more people over 65 than children under 15, he said, adding however, there is only 1/10th the number of geriatricians in Canada as pediatricians.

Levitt also touched on the use of medication in nursing homes. He said there are nursing home residents today in B.C. who have no psychiatric diagnosis and are prescribed psychotropic medication, or “chemical restraints.”

He said improvements are being made “but it’s still something that’s epidemic in our industry, unfortunately.”