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Valentine’s Day serves as an annual reminder that I will likely, one day, turn into a cat lady. This concerns me for a couple of reasons, the most important being that I despise cats. If their condescending, territorial stares aren’t enough to detract from their appeal, then consider that they’ve been known to eat their dead owners’ bodies. Valentine’s Day might incite oozing feelings of passion for some, flowery declarations of love for others or even just a general indifference. Whenever Valentine’s Day swings around, I usually think of myself not alone, per se, but surrounded by two dozens of cats all feeding on my decaying body. Happy Valentine’s Day, indeed.

Perhaps you'll spot the obvious flaw my brain tends to miss when it conjures up these imaginary soap operas. If I don’t like cats, then I don’t have a problem because I’ll never actively decide to own a cat in the first place–let alone two dozens. No one sane would, which is maybe where the parasite Toxoplasma gondii comes into play. T. gondii alters rodent neural systems so that a rat becomes attracted to the scent of cats (specifically, cat pee) and is more likely to get eaten. Once in the feline digestive system, T. gondii can happily complete its life cycle. That’s not all: T. gondii has also been shown to use humans as hosts.

Although largely asymptomatic in humans, some have suggested T. gondii is to blame for extreme ailurophilic (cat loving) behaviour. The more cats you own, the more waste they produce and the greater the likelihood of T. gondii infecting your brain. It’s a very convoluted kind of feedback, and without any empirical evidence, hard to accept as anything but a conspiracy theory. Along with the cats comes the “crazy”: despite the minute number of historical cases, studies of people with an acute T. gondii infection show they exhibit psychological symptoms that resemble schizophrenia.

The association of female cat owners with the “crazy cat lady” stereotype only reinforces the unequal perception we are trying so hard abolish: that a person’s worth based on their achievements ... cannot compare to the worth of someone who has established a committed relationship.

A pseudoscientific basis for the “crazy cat lady” phenomenon, however, still fails to explain its inherent association with a pathetic and fornlorn soul, particularly one who lacks enough social skills to find a significant other. My friend recently recalled an instance where she had been playing Neko Atsume on her phone, a highly addictive game where the player purchases products to attract and collect a variety of virtual cats. When her brother saw this upon passing by, he commented (I imagine, in a snarky “you should punch me in the face” tone) on it being good preparation for her real life.

No one denies that my friend's story made for a good laugh, but her brother's association of a cat lady with spinsterhood, and ultimately, failure, is proof that a stigma still exists surrounding solitary living.

Yes, the world has come a long way in terms of recognizing that a woman can be successful in both self-acceptance and her career, even if it means she is not romantically involved, but it is essential that we continue to move away from outdated ideals as a unfounded basis for criticizing other people.

The association of female cat owners with the “crazy cat lady” stereotype only reinforces the unequal perception we are trying so hard to abolish: that a person's worth based on their achievements, such as someone who puts their career first, cannot compare to the worth of someone who has established a committed relationship. Everyone is unique, and as we all have different ideas of what makes us happy, it is far from our place to judge someone by the traditional standards of a fulfilling life.

When I say Valentine’s Day serves as a reminder of my probable future as a cat lady, what alarms me is not literally being forced to live alongside domesticated animals so much as the irrational fear of growing old and dying alone. With Valentine’s Day approaching, we tend to forget that we are constantly surrounded by the people (and pets) we love. So love the things you love without reserve. Love yourself (although not in the way Justin Bieber suggests). If that makes you “crazy,” then so be it. All the best people are.

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By: Grace Kennedy

Ageism against seniors is an increasingly concealed issue in Canada. As university students surrounded by a majority of young adults, it is remarkably easy to get caught up in the culture of youth.

For many of us, our interactions with seniors are characterized by the time we spend helping care for our grandparents, parents, or friends in old age. Old age as a life stage is underrepresented in popular media and entertainment, including in journalism.

The harms of discriminating against seniors extend beyond the obvious demographic. There is evidence that young adults are increasingly burdened by our society’s lack of accessibility and attention to old age. A current Stats Canada report found that 27 percent of young Canadians provide care for persons in old age facing struggles with aging needs, disability or long-term health issues. The duty to provide care was found to adversely affect studies and employment, as well as increase psychological stresses such worry and anxiety.

We may enjoy providing care for important people in our lives, but these situations are challenging and complicate our lives in a time when we many of us are trying to get our own ducks in a row. We often feel that we can’t say “no” to helping out, and in many instances the people we care for would face adverse circumstances if we weren’t there to help.

As youth, we don’t give much attention to topics such as pensions and other old age benefits. It seems unnecessary to inform ourselves about these things when they seem part of a distant future, but they are realities that affect us now because they affect our grandparents and parents. In 2023, the Old Age Security benefit in Canada will increase the age requirement to 67.

Furthermore, the amount of attention the word “pension” gets in politics and in the media would have most of us believe it’s a lottery we receive every month once we hit senior citizenship. It’s not. Roughly speaking, if you meet the maximum earning contribution mark of approximately $55,000, you will receive just over $1,000 per month from the Canadian Pension Plan, and if you have lived in Canada for at least 40 years after turning 18, an OAS benefit of just over $500 per month. This really sets the tone for how we think about the possible financial challenges for seniors in our lives and people in old age overall.

If persons in old age had better financial security and accessible services, many youth would not be faced with the challenge of providing care. Transportation, meal services, and additional healthcare expenses would be things that we wouldn’t need to worry about if they existed as affordable and accessible services.

Our attitudes and culture plays a huge role in all this. We often forget, whether we are in favour of the welfare state or not, that old age is an immutable stage in life. The challenges that come with old age bring threats to our autonomy and an increased need to pay for service. The beauty of talking about old age is that we can all be advocates because it’s an expected life course; it’s on the itinerary. 

How can we be more inclusive of old age outside our family members and friends?

Our attitudes may not show or seem to affect the seniors in our lives, but outside of these relationships, there is no doubt that the general public is filled with discrimination and stigma.

It is estimated that by 2050, 25 per cent of Canadians will be seniors. A survey paid for by Revera, a provider of retirement homes and long-term care, found that many of the stigmas associated with old age including incompetence and “having nothing to contribute” run counter to the fact that seniors are more likely than any age group to say that “age is just a number.”

This speaks to the importance of valuing our minds. The word “old” can really only refer to physical traits, and isn’t a reflection of intelligence. Wisdom and experience are the true judgments of aging.

Sophia Topper
Staff Reporter

It was beautiful.

The sky was blue, the brick was red, the grass was green and the tree was so, so, gold.

I remembered sitting on the scratchy carpet in Mrs. Nordahl’s grade one class, learning about why trees change colour in the fall. As autumn days are cut to darkness and fall is cut to winter, the green pigments flood out, extraneous without the light that feeds them. Gold is the colour of death.

But as we extoll upon fall’s fiery beauty, we might ask why we find it so. The reds and yellows splattering our campus are omens of winter, and a symbol of vanishing vitality. They are the tree’s last words, and their parting gift before a barren darkness.

As I stood next to viagra canada Bates residence staring up at this incredible tree, I wondered why we don’t revel in spring the same way. Sure, everyone loves spring, the blissful rebirth after a harsh winter, but we don’t savour it. We keep looking ahead to summer. Fall is different because it’s ephemeral. We know it won’t last. We don’t like what comes next.

The leaves remind us how little time we have left. Fall inspires people to do things: go for one last hike before it gets icy, wear your sandals one last time, roast around one last bonfire, eat one last bowl of squash soup and live as much as possible before frigidity sets in and we all retreat to tunnels and dorms.

It was a bit of a shock to come inside and open up a magazine to a spread on anti-aging creams, serums and cleansers. Society doesn’t find beauty in wrinkles and grey hairs, but they’re no different from gold and red leaves.

When a woman looks in the mirror and spots her first wrinkle, the tired trope calls for a catastrophic melt down. She looks in the mirror and curses all the things that caused it. All those afternoons sunbathing on the lawn, those blissful cigarette study breaks, the late nights imbibing with friends, she stares in the mirror and wishes she could take them all back. Is it really worth it to lose all those joyful moments for a less flawed face?

When a man spots his first grey hair, he doesn’t celebrate the fact he lived long enough to earn one, he worries that he has lost his looks. He fears he looks old, tired, like his grandfather.

If a tree could see its leaves, how would it feel? Would it rejoice in its new beauty, or fear their imminent loss? We dislike signs of age in ourselves because they remind us of how much time we have left, but rather than plan how to spend it most people plan how to keep it from showing. What if grey hair and wrinkles were treated like fall, inspiring us to really carpe diem this time, instead of feeding into the $114 billion anti-aging industry. Couldn’t that money be better spent making the most of our own personal autumns?

I know that a bunch of college students who won’t be facing this anytime soon may not be the best people to make this plea to, but it starts with you. Next time you see your grandmother, try to appreciate the silver in her hair like you appreciate the gold in the leaves. If you’re lucky, that’ll be you some day. It can be beautiful too.

By: Ilia Ostrovski

 

Medical advances are continuing to push the boundary of how long the average person should expect to live. This trend of increasing life expectancy underscores the importance of measuring quality of life as individuals age.

With this issue in mind, three Canadian researchers submitted a joint proposal to the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) to launch one of the largest clinical explorations of the topic to date. In November 2001, their proposal was accepted. On Sept. 28, after eleven years of planning, the study’s lead principal investigator, Parminder Raina of McMaster, finally announced the official grand opening of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA).

Raina is the director of McMaster’s Evidence-based Practice Center and specializes in clinical epidemiology and biostatistics. His area of interests is the epidemiology of aging, injury and knowledge transfer. Before the launch of CLSA, Raina was the lead investigator for the Hamilton site of the Canadian Study of Health and Aging, which explored the epidemiology of dementia. Currently, he holds the Raymond and Margaret Labarge Chair in Research and Knowledge Application for Optimal Aging.

Raina was joined in the celebration by some of the 160 researchers from all across the country who are collaborating on this innovative project. The study’s co-principal investigators are Christina Wolfson from McGill University and Susan Kirkland from Dalhousie University. This study will collect data from 50,000 men and women between the ages of 45 and 85 and will continue to follow up with its subjects for at least 20 years.

Unlike previous longitudinal studies on similar topics, CLSA will take a multi-faceted approach to examining the aging process. By analyzing the gradual change of psychological, social, medical and biological parameters, the investigators hope to address a breadth of important issues concerning the maintenance of good health in the latter years of life.

CLSA will use 11 data collection sites, four telephone interview centres and three data analysis facilities across the country. The McMaster Innovation Park is one of CLSA’s particularly prominent facilities. It houses the study’s National Coordinating center, the Bioanalysis and Biorepository Center and the McMaster Data Collection Site.

"The CLSA is more than a study,” said Yves Joanette, the Scientific Director of CIHR’s Institute of Aging. “It represents a unique platform that will be used by researchers from all disciplines and fields for decades to come thanks to the range of information that will be gathered and analyzed."

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