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The Spectator - article on Margaret Trudeau and The Women's Place

Former flower child now redefining the golden years: Margaret Trudeau on aging, mental health

Heather Killen
Published on October 17, 2014
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Margaret Trudeau was in Annapolis Royal Oct. 15, speaking about issues concerning senior women.

ANNAPOLIS ROYAL - We must imagine a brighter future for our senior years, according to Margaret Trudeau.

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Trudeau was the guest speaker at the Senior Women’s Summit held in Annapolis Royal Oct. 15. This daylong series of workshops was organized by the Women’s Place Resource Center and looked at topics such as changes to the Canada Pension Plan, how to make positive life transitions and senior projects.

On Wednesday evening at Kings Theatre, Trudeau spoke candidly about her struggle with bipolar depression. First seen as the high-spirited and whimsical wife of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, she is the author of three books and an advocate for mental health awareness.

Trudeau told the audience she’s working on a new book that examines aging and the need to change our minds about how we view aging.

 “As we age, women become invisible,” she said. “We become isolated, we see our health and mental health declining and we fear the loss of independence. A lot of seniors give up.”

Faced with an aging population and finite resources, people will need to be creative and find new solutions for long-term living arrangements and care options, she said.

Seniors face various issues surrounding mental health, such as memory loss, income related stress, depression, and anxiety. She says that people need to stay involved in the community, and maintain an active and connected lifestyle.

Trudeau pointed to the bleak picture of poverty, isolation and loss of independence and emphasized that we can change our minds about this future. We can look at how we can support each other in later years.

“There’s a wave of seniors coming, we can make a difference but we have to get more political, we need help,” she said. “And we’ll need the government to support our choices.”

Della Longmire, executive director of the Women’s Place, said in a later interview that she had an opportunity to talk to Trudeau about her research and the new book, and it correlates with much of what the Women’s Place has found in its work.

“We are also looking at how to how to revision aging in a positive light,” she said. “We are dealing with all of the issues she talked about—mental health and well being, housing, making transitions from home into another living arrangement—and money is a huge challenge for many senior women.”

Longmire said that while we have a social safety, the pension plan is inadequate in itself, as it provides a subsistent living allowance. And recent changes in the pension plan mean that women will be working longer than before, providing their health enables them to continue working.

“We are an aging population,” she said. “The old adage about being healthy, wealthy and wise is great. We have the wisdom, but now we need the health and wealth. There is so much potential, so many possibilities, but we need to change our way of thinking about aging.”

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