The entire world population is changing and Canada is no different. Canada’s demographics have been shifting. In 2015, the first version of the National Seniors Strategy publication was launched to recognize Canada’s policy response to our national aging population. By the year 2035, seniors over 65 years of age will represent one in four Canadians. As seniors, we are outnumbering children under 15 years of age and we are the fastest growing demographic.
And yet, in Canada, we still do not have a national senior’s strategy. What exactly is that? Like an architect or builder uses plans to design and construct a home, building, or complex, we need a blueprint for ensuring that we are supporting our aging population by designing an integrated continuum of care that can continue across generations. What are the pillars that hold this foundation?
The four cornerstones of the national senior’s strategy are:
- Independent, productive, and engaged seniors who are able to contribute to society
- Healthy and active lives to ensure that the health system is not burdened
- Care closer to home where seniors are near loved ones, and familiar surroundings
- Support for caregivers through mental health, finances, and training programs
There have been some efforts to address these pillars. For example, Alberta Health Services has implemented “Conversations Matter” which is an online, interactive guide to help patients clarify advance care planning. Other provinces have similar personal directive material. But what about addressing elder abuse, isolation and loneliness, poverty, financial support, age-friendly environments—just to name a few of the other issues that need attention?
October 1st was the International Day of Older Persons in Canada but because of the last almost 20 months—we have seen the consequences of the pandemic on seniors—this day was more significant than others from years gone by. Recently, the National Institute on Aging was commissioned by the Health Standards Organization to conduct a survey on long-term care homes in Canada. The results showed that 67.3% of the survey’s almost 17,000 responses indicated that long-term care homes in Canada are not providing safe, reliable or high-quality care. (bit.ly/3oofoau)
The government needs a plan both socially and economically for our elderly to reform systems of care. The National Institute on Ageing, which is a platform and think tank at Ryerson University in Ontario, continues to advocate for cooperation between provincial and federal governments. They address the challenges and point out the opportunities of Canada’s ageing population. This group feels that there is a great need for a national strategy to be put into place. So, what can we do to support this group and get others thinking about cooperation and advocacy?
Lorrie Morales is the author of We Can Do This.Adult Children and Aging Parents Planning for Success. She can be reached at www.lorriemorales.com