A National Seniors Strategy, keeping watch so far…
Tucked under the umbrella of the Ministry of Families, Children and Social Development, which appears within the portfolio of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), there lies the National Seniors Council (NSC). Its stated purpose is to “advise the Government of Canada on matters related to the health, well-being and quality of life of seniors, including opportunities and challenges arising from a rapidly growing and increasingly diverse population of seniors”.
Now entering its 11th year in 2018, last month a new Chairperson, Dr. Suzanne Dupuis-Blanchard, was appointed to the NSC along with four new members. At this high level, largely under the radar of most citizens, their advisory work ideally informs, and folds into government policy making for seniors matters. As embedded as this is, outside of the informed circles I travel in, most everyday people I meet, in that diverse swath of seniors so rapidly growing, have never heard of the NSC.
Keeping watch? The news rolls on. As already stated in the first two segments of this 3-part blog series, not only do we have the NSC, we do have a separate well-prepared alliance sponsored National Seniors Strategy. But based on the fact that so many lately seem to think we don’t have one and that we really do need one – and that we really need a new Ministry for Seniors Affairs for a strategy we don’t know we already have, you can’t but ask another question.
What more do we want from a strategy that we don’t already have?
With this question ringing in my ears at least, I return with an update on the whereabouts of Marc Serré the MP for Nickle Belt. As I noted before, he had his private members’ Motion 106 passed in May 2017, calling for a National Seniors Strategy. Almost a year later, Mr. Serré has resurfaced in a feature news article in the Manitoulin Expositer from March 21st.
Looks like he has the bit between his teeth on this subject, for he has hosted 50 forums across Canada, most recently in Espanola, Ontario. First thought, I wondered – did Serré research that National Seniors Strategy to help inform his forum presentations? Second, I thought, well good for Serré for bringing the conversation to the communities, even though we must remember, these issues cross policy areas in several other ministries such as the one that addresses a National Housing Strategy and now this new yet to be charted direction around a national pharma-care program.
Does the National Seniors Council, which feeds its federal government ministry, work with this referenced National Seniors Strategy? Do not council members bring an abundance of their own research and strategy papers with them from their own jurisdictions? How many studies, forums and repetitive headlines are we going to look at in 2018? Why can’t Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development re-shuffle communication verbiage and just name Seniors Strategy up front in his existing portfolio?
Canada’s well-known list of seniors issues is not a mystery in search of a new ministry.
A strategy is a fluid process subject to recalibration as the world changes. There is a point where strategy must lead to actionable policy development. But by the look of things, between what the provincial and federal governments, and these other groups mentioned are doing; we seem to have arrived at a moment where the answer to strategy is spend more of our tax dollars on programs for the familiar issues we have been tooling with for decades. Who is to say that a strategy today will even meet the needs of a new reality by 2030?
Perhaps the heightened sound level on these calls for an instantly recognizable, well-communicated national strategy is a result of the fact that the aging demographic landscape over next few decades will demand a more concentrated attention on social policies and reallocation of funding. These so-called seniors funding issues will be on the political agenda even more this year as we go through upcoming election cycles, provincial in Ontario, and well into next year with a federal election.
As we continue to look at aging and longevity issues in Canada, calling it a need for a seniors strategy, we should consider that the narrative needs to trickle down to capture feedback from what we could call future seniors, those presently under that scored age of 65. I propose that a national longevity strategy would be a more inclusive way to describe what we need in order to resonate with a larger scope of an older adult population equally concerned with the future of health & home care, affordable housing and flexible income & financial structures for that projected longer life.
Postscript… keep watch
While the national call for a seniors strategy continues, check out what a few of the provinces are messaging fresh from 2017.
New Brunswick We’re All in this Together, An Aging Strategy
Nova Scotia Action Plan for an Aging Population
Ontario Action Plan for Seniors