Successful Aging: The Myths, Realities and Future of Aging in Canada
James Gladstone was in the University of Toronto Gerontology Program.
Dr. Mark Novak has written a very informative and readable book on aging in Canada. In the opening chapters, he discusses some myths about aging, as well as some implications of an aging population for Canadian society. In each succeeding chapter, Dr. Novak focuses on a specific issue related to aging, including the health care system, housing, government and private pension plans, mandatory and voluntary retirement, leisure activities, adult education, and political involvement. In each case, the author critically evaluates the impact that these issues have on older people’s lives. For example, Dr. Novak refers to ways that the health care system serves the elderly. He also points out difficulties in the system and the need for innovative programs and services, both within institutions and in the community. The author states that many older people prefer to live independently but are faced with the high cost of rents or mortgages. Reference is made to community groups and service clubs that have tried to alleviate this financial stress through special housing projects. The author notes that many older persons benefit from pension plans. However, these plans have limitations, especially for older women. Some ways of strengthening the pension system are mentioned. Dr. Novak maintains that many older persons want to learn and take courses at the university level. He also suggests that the education system could be improved so that older people would find such learning experience more enjoyable.
Successful Aging takes an optimistic view of old age. The central message put forward by Dr. Novak is that the later years can be a time of hope and opportunity for self-fulfillment, rather than a time of gloom and despondency. Although some of the data provided by the author do not point to this conclusion, Dr. Novak presents a convincing argument that viewing old age strictly as a pathological condition is limiting if not misleading. The author uses a host of scholarly references as well as anecdotes and case records. A rich supply of Canadian statistics is given, and Dr. Novak interprets the data with a good deal of warmth and sensitivity.