JOHN McINTOSH is pretty blunt when asked what it’s like growing older with a disability.
“Oh, it sucks really.”
“The crux of it is we all get older, but it’s worse when you’re disabled.”
The 69-year-old Hamilton resident was born with scoliosis – or curvature of the spine – although John’s never let his disability slow him down.
But, he admits, as he gets older his disability is having a bigger impact on daily life.
“In my case, my curvature of the spine is getting worse; therefore my breathing is getting worse; therefore I get tireder [sic] easily. I fatigue easily and I’ve developed glaucoma…and that’s just gradually getting worse.”
When John was very young, doctors told his parents he was unlikely to live past middle age.
“Life expectancy for people a generation ago with my condition, meant they didn’t live past 40 in many instances,” he says.
John’s had to take a step back from one of his lifelong passions – performing.
“I’ve had to stop playing drums because I found that towards the end of my playing rock and roll for a long period of time I was pretty exhausted.”
John, who features in Attitude Live’s latest Question Time video (below), acknowledges it’s not always easy to stay upbeat as you age, and some people may start to feel isolated.
“It’s important to take a deep breath and step outside your door. Become involved, keep active and try and stay positive,” says John.
The key is finding things to be passionate about and get involved in. John’s still working as community liaison and ambassador for Life Unlimited, a charitable trust supporting people with disability. He’s also actively involved in Disabled Persons Assembly and he loves being a part of his granddaughter’s life.
He says staying connected with people is really important.
“Surround yourself with good people – people who understand. I get a kick out of talking to other people with disability.”
But the one piece of advice he wishes he’d been told is to plan for later life.
“Planning for your future is really important, because the chances are your disability will get worse. You need to plan for two things – your financial security in retirement, and also your support needs for your disability so you can stay independent.”
John reckons independence is “important for you soul”.
“So wrap you yourself with good support. However, try and stay independent as long as you can.”
The SuperSeniors Website is run by the Office for Seniors through the Ministry of Social Development. It acts as a gateway to information and services for seniors.
Age Concern is a charitable organisation dedicated solely to people over 65 that promotes dignity, wellbeing, equity and respect and provides expert information and support services in response to older people’s needs.
Source: Mary Anne Gill | Life Unlimited Trust