Entitlements Undermine Independence

Pets are wonderful companions, but they require care. My two indoor cats, Diamond and Dallas, have the run of the house and keep things lively. They climb on my bed to wake and greet me each morning, and eagerly await their breakfast. They are playful all morning, often racing through the house at top speed. Later they settle into their favourite spots to rest. At bedtime they both come to say goodnight. Vimy, my dog, who is not a cat lover, has her own daily rhythm. She sleeps on my bedroom floor, to remain close by, and awakens when I do. After breakfast, the highlight of her day is going for a long walk along one of the numerous nearby nature trails. She enthusiastically sniffs her way along each trail, completely absorbed by scents left by her canine friends. For the remainder of the day she happily dozes on the front porch, quietly greeting people who stop by to pet her. Life without my pets would be a lonely journey indeed.

My 14-year-old car takes me where I want to go, which is not that far afield any longer. I use it mainly for shopping and driving to local places of interest. I now lack the enthusiasm to take an active part in church, the local museum, the botanical garden, or the local speakers’ club, all of which I once enjoyed. This concerns me because I miss the social contacts. As well, within the past decade, many of my male friends have died and others have substantial health problems. I miss their companionship. Loneliness is now a factor in my life.

Senior services in my community are plentiful. They are too important to be abused by people who do not really need them.  As long as we are physically and mentally fit, we can easily remain in our homes while cherry-picking the services that we need.  

There definitely is a price to pay for services that we want others to provide if we remain in our own homes, but it would undoubtedly be much less than $5,000 per month. And, if still with a partner or spouse, it will be very much less than $120,000 per year. The elderly barber, showing up for work every day, does make a valid point when he questions why a reasonably fit individual would want to spend enormous amounts of money to be served “a few bowls of soup”.

Think of all the fun I would miss by not having two cats, a dog, a flock of birds, and a small army of squirrels to feed each day. Think of the satisfaction of sinking my teeth into a garden tomato, incubated in my sunroom from the seed of my favourite variety of tomato. Think of the challenging efforts to start a balky snowblower each autumn and the relief when it bursts into life. Everyday living, while actively engaged with life, is a satisfying way to spend our retirement years.

For centuries, Christian preachers have been extolling the joyful, carefree after-life that awaits parishioners once they pass through the Pearly Gates. It seems as though modern society is upstaging these dream makers by creating a heavenly paradise on earth. But life can quickly become tedious, living in a retirement residence, or opting for others to take over most of the daily chores in our homes while we sit around twiddling our thumbs.  

Seniors have been singled out by society for special consideration. Maintaining our independence for as long as possible, however, makes life meaningful and rewarding. We may be entitled to our entitlement, but Nirvana can wait.


Entitlements Undermine Independence

Dr. James F. McDonald is a retired elementary school principal who lives in Dundas, ON.
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