July 07, 2017
Senate Committee recommends we get ready for a new generation of active seniors: New report
The Senate’s Finance Committee has endorsed a National Seniors Strategy in their report, Getting Ready: For a New Generation of Active Seniors. The report, released on June 29, 2017, is the first in a series on Canada’s aging population, which the Committee notes will pose significant challenges – and opportunities – for our health care system, public finances, and labour market.
Like most countries, Canada is facing sustained, rapid population aging: we now have more people aged 65 and over than children 14 and under. With our median age rising, life expectancy now at 82 years, and lower birth rates, we are already seeing impacts on the health care system and economy.
The report makes four recommendations to respond to Canada’s demographic shift – all seemingly simple and all a familiar tune to seniors’ advocates: developing a national seniors strategy; supporting aging at home and building better homecare; considering demographic needs in calculations for federal health transfers to the provinces; and increasing labour force participation of underrepresented groups and better matching labour demand with supply.
In this first round of study, the Committee consulted experts from across Canada, who proposed measures ranging from government incentives to encourage employment of older workers, to recognizing the opportunities for employment, product, and service evolution in meeting new demands for health care services, home care, and other seniors’ needs.
On the health side, experts noted that “we have to find ways to improve the system.” Although change can be uncomfortable, Canada has clearly outgrown the solutions we have applied in the past, such as “more public funds with no strings attached or promises to increase the number of doctors”.
“This is an interesting and potentially exciting time for seniors, nearly-seniors, and seniors’ advocates – the early stages of what we hope is transition and transformation of our health care system into one that is more responsive and suited to our new demographic realities,” says Federal Retirees president Jean-Guy Soulière.
The National Association of Federal Retirees has actively advocated for the development of a national seniors’ strategy for several years, and is pleased the Senate Finance Committee also supports the need for it.
“We know our members are worried about health care – and rightly so,” notes Soulière. “That’s why we continue to work on voicing their concerns and bringing solutions forward. But we’re seeing more Canadians adding their support to a national seniors’ strategy, and some significant first steps – for example, the commitments made by this federal government in the 2017 budget for home care and affordable housing – and that bodes well for the future.”