The Numbers Game


By Lorna ForemanJune 2019

I’ve always been intrigued by numbers. I feel they have a personality of their own and some fit together better than others. They can create designs. Am I sounding crazy? Perhaps, but that is why when a good friend of mine who is an economist sends me government reports on Canadian statistics, I read them. The last report stressed seniors.

I have never been contacted to do a survey. Have you? Have you partaken in any survey that gives up these very interesting statistics?

I read the report and not being an economist, I got quite lost at times. I wondered though, if they actually mattered to me. I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but will those results change my life or are they just ‘interesting findings’?

I heard the following statistic on the radio. Apparently, Canada’s annual workforce has dropped from the usual +/- 200,000 to just about 68,000 last year (2018). One of the reasons is obvious since there is a rise in people retiring not to mention that since the birth control pill was introduced, there are fewer young people entering the work force. One can draw the conclusion that the work force needs people to hire. What doesn’t make sense to me is when I went looking for a part-time job, I never got to first base. Was it ageism? I was qualified but never got a response.

I read the report and discovered some fascinating facts.

It seems that women over the age of 55 tend to fall more than men but they walk faster and have better balance. I have a young friend who over the past 10 years has taken upon herself to check up on me. I realize that she is concerned now that I am definitely considered a senior. At first, I was rather annoyed since I didn’t really feel much different than I did twenty years ago and despite two hip replacements I am pretty agile. I know that as we age, we get frailer and so I joined a gym for the first time in my life. Also, I walk, kayak and bicycle so feel confident that I will, hopefully, slow down the inevitable.

“Use your cane with ice grips,” she told me sternly. “Get something for your boots so you won’t slide on the ice.” What I do is wear boots with good treads and walk like a demented penguin on slippery surfaces. Keeping fit helps — especially keeping flexible. Going to the gym is helpful even if I am not intending to enter any bodybuilding contests because it actually gives me confidence.

The report claimed that men were better at the ‘grip test’ which may change with this growing group of senior women I see going to the gym.

Even though men have always seemed to work out more, women over the age of 55 tend to walk faster and have better balance. They also have better timing at the ‘chair rise.’ The chair rise is sitting on a straight-backed chair and rising only using your legs as quickly as you can five times. I tried it and was surprised at my results.

Women over 55 have nearly twice the rate of dissatisfaction with their lives than men. Also receiving care is higher if you are a widowed, divorced or separated woman. That’s sad. Women appear to develop osteoporosis more than men especially in the later years. Men appear to develop diabetes more and while it is in hindsight, eating well and working out at an early age can help that.

The report went on for many pages, filled with fascinating facts and statistics. However, what crossed my mind was how reading information like this could possibly make one feel that it is inevitable and therefore you create those worst-case scenarios. Not that I would advise, after being told you have osteoporosis, that you run down the ice-covered sidewalk just because you’ve been working out at the gym.

Statistical information does have importance and we can only hope we are not affected by those worst-case situations. They are just a little warning that it could happen but not live by them.

I sometimes feel aging is like playing Musical Chairs; when the music stops, if you are lucky, you get another seat. Maybe keeping fit will help you in that game of life.

I try to avoid those statistics. We live in a media-seduced society and without realizing it we could allow ourselves to fall prey to their influence.

As I am writing this column I realize I have to go out after yet another dump of snow and thaw and freeze to get to my car, carrying a large container of ashes to allow me not to fall on my backside and if you are reading this — I was successful.

Lorna Foreman is a self-described 50-plus writer, author and artist who lives in Cornwall.