Aging & Longevity, From Media Headlines to Strategy – Part 2

A National Seniors Strategy, how many more calls?

You could say that over the last five years, more Canadians have been speaking up, though it might appear to some to be sporadically, (depending on the churning storylines in the media cycle), about the momentous effects of aging demographics on our social policies and systems. After the results on Statistics Canada demographic estimates from 2015 and the last census data in 2016, here is one of the ever so suddenly stunning statements people trot out, almost by rote…

“Seniors (those over age 65) are the fastest growing segment of Canada’s population accounting for 16.9 per cent and for the first time have exceeded the child population aged below 15 years”.

So what? What does this mean over the longer term, and what do we think we’re going to do about it? As commented in the last post, what we get often are regurgitating calls for a strategy “to combat the looming crisis of aging”. Typically, the concerns are around the stress on health care systems, pension reform, affordable housing, income disparity; and not to forget work options (or lack thereof) for “older workers” who choose or need to work longer.

While there continues to be enough other prickly world news items of deeper human concern that occupy our minds share these past few years, (such as mass migration from conflict zones); over the last year quietly but steadily, there have been calls from various groups, government bodies and concerned individuals that Canada must develop a National Seniors Strategy. Some days, you have to wonder, how many more calls do we need to hear? What does anyone know of Canada’s existing National Seniors Strategy?

 

What has the government not done to communicate?

“Words create the worlds. The language we use shapes the culture we get.” Paraphrased from an article title quote by Eric Geiger, I’ve heard variations on this many times. For the purpose of this post we could choose other words to substitute for the word Seniors, when we talk about developing a strategy for older adult populations, but as others have labeled its so, let us play with that for now, run this newsreel forward and see what culture we get in a longevity society.

Recently a message came through my social media feed that said, “Join others in an e-petition requesting the Canadian government to appoint a Minister or Special Advisor to the Prime Minister for ageing.” Well, here it is, E-1566 (Elderly). That title was enough to put me off right there. Word origin from around 1610, elderly does not reflect the modern reality of a generally more active healthier older adulthood for anyone I know.

As it turns out the sponsor of this House of Commons Petition, initiated by Ghazy Mujahid, is Iqra Khalid – the Liberal Member of Parliament for Mississauga, Erin Mills. E-1566 petition ends with, “We, the undersigned, Citizens and Residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to appoint a Minister or a Special Advisor to the Prime Minister for Seniors Affairs.” Is this what we really need, considering we already have it? Perhaps the first question should be, what has the government not done to communicate what exists to Canadians and even to its own ministers?

Can we not work with the Seniors story already created?

As far back as 2007, the Government of Canada set up the National Seniors Council. If that’s not recent enough, there’s this event from 2017, the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Ministers Responsible for Seniors Forum. It’s all there. If we aren’t convinced that’s enough, there is the New Horizons for Seniors Program. Are we not in need of more?

There is the National Seniors Strategy group, around since 2013, which has researched and crafted a comprehensive narrative, promoting its own four pillars framework, and the National Institute on Aging at Ryerson – which held conferences I’ve attended in both November 2016 & 2017 – has supported this initiative. Granted all these entities involve a select, interconnected circle of people who have done an enormous amount of work on strategy. Certainly enough?

In June 2017, Senate Canada published a report by their Standing Committee on National Finance on Canada’s Aging Population – titled Getting Ready: For a new generation of active seniors. This tidy 24-page report sets a platform for an intelligent and inclusive discussion that could be facilitated anywhere across the country, an invitation to all age groups I might stress, rather than one narrowly designed for a seniors only audience.

At the same time as the Senate Canada effort, in May 2017, in the House of Commons, MP Marc Serré’s private members’ Motion 106, was passed, asking to create a study to develop a National Seniors Strategy. Was Serré talking with the Senate at any point? Has Iqra Khalid looked at Motion 106? Has she looked at the government websites where all this is recorded?

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has been backing all this too, as evidenced by their participation in the Senate report and the Demand a Plan movement on their website. They are currently chiming in with “Don’t we deserve a national seniors strategy to benefit all Canadians?” If you don’t like the sound of E-1566 (Elderly), you can sign up with the CMA.

Oh, and one more refrain from ten days ago from the Liberal Party of Canada. It has a resolution for their upcoming 2018 Halifax convention: “BE IT RESOLVED the Liberal Party of Canada strongly urge the Government of Canada to establish a dedicated Ministry of Seniors.” Is not the current government, led by the Liberal Party? Can they, can we not work with the Seniors strategy already created?

 

Before Next Post – what more do we want from a strategy that we don’t already have? Do we really need another new ministry?

 

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