By Stacey Francis (North Vancouver, B.C.)
What is it going to be like when I get older? Will I be weaker? Will I live to be old? Will I have any medical complications? I was a 20-year-old woman with so many questions about ageing with cerebral palsy.
In an effort to find answers, I began to search online and visit the local library. To my dismay, I couldn’t find much and what I did find was really outdated and quite disheartening. I remember finding a book in the library with a very small section on disability and ageing. What I found read along the lines of, “that due to outdated medical research that the life expectancy for people with cerebral palsy was quite short in comparison to that of an able-bodied person.” I remember reading in horror the medical complications people with CP often faced. I’m pretty sure I became traumatized from reading that section. I honestly can’t even tell you what complications mentioned were.
Regardless of my traumatic experience researching the topic, the question of disability and ageing still intrigued me. It was one of the many taboo subjects not many people talk about. I decided to incorporate the subject into the work I do as a facilitator. With the help of my colleague, we planned a session for people with disabilities to get together and talk about disability and ageing. We invited orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Richard Beauchamp.
To my surprise, his talk wasn’t so much medically based. Instead, his talk focused on the quality of life. He actually talked about the fact that people with various disabilities are actually living longer because they are happier. At one point in the conversation, he stated “All of you are participating in society and that’s the first major step. You have eliminated one of the predictors for early mortality.”
Basically what I’ve learned over the years is to surround yourself with positivity; stay active the best that you can; socialize; laugh; vent; and create a sense of belonging and purpose. There is no medical fix to ageing with cerebral palsy. Quality of life is what matters most and is what will keep us all moving forward.