By 2030, adults aged 65 or older will make up 23 per cent of Canada’s population and number over 9.5 million. Older adults represent the fastest growing segment of the population, but gaps in Canada’s health-care and social policies are putting barriers in the way of their independence and undermining their role in maintaining vibrant, healthy communities and economies.
Tackling these issues separately will not give us the results we need. A coordinated national seniors strategy, with dedicated funding and accountable goals, will ensure we meet the evolving needs of older Canadians. Federal Retirees has long called for a national seniors strategy focused on enhancing older Canadians’ quality of life through income security; access to affordable and appropriate housing and transportation; age-friendly communities; and quality health care, including improved long-term, home and community care.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the disproportionate impact it has had on older Canadians has amplified the need for a national seniors strategy, and called attention to long-standing issues with Canada’s health and social systems, highlighting the need for a new approach which includes better policy and investment. Many of the approaches that Federal Retirees advocates for as part of a national seniors strategy would help address the issues older Canadians are facing as a result of COVID-19, and improve the lives of older Canadians moving forward. It is time for Canada to reimagine both health care and services for older adults and the supports for those who help older adults live meaningful and dignified lives.
When it comes to the deficiencies COVID-19 has exposed in Canada’s health-care system, Federal Retirees is calling on all governments to work together to ensure adequate oversight and funding of health care, including long-term care and home and community care, to build a system that meets the needs of Canadians, today and in the future.
Overall, by addressing the social determinants of health and dealing with the long-neglected and underfunded aspects of our health-care system, governments can provide a blueprint for an integrated continuum of care that meets the needs of a growing older adult population, supports a strong economy across generations, and addresses the gaps in Canada’s social policies that interfere with older Canadians’ participation in everyday life.
Implement a National Seniors Strategy
As stated in the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance’s report, Getting Ready: For a New Generation of Active Seniors, a national seniors strategy is needed to control the increasing costs related to an aging population, relieve the pressure being placed on an already stressed health-care system and ensure older Canadians get the care they need, when and where they need it.
Implementing a national seniors strategy that meets the growing and changing needs of Canada’s aging population requires a coordinated and integrated effort involving all levels of government, as well as the private and public sectors. The only way to ensure the success of such an approach is for the federal government to play a leadership role.
Today, with an average Canadian life expectancy of more than 80, physicians believe Canadians who reach 65 without major complications can realistically look forward to 20 more years of life, 17 of them in good health. However, most policies affecting older Canadians were designed for an age when retirement was something that occurred near the end of one’s life. Retirement is becoming something quite different — and Canada’s social and health policies for older Canadians must change with it.
For these reasons, Federal Retirees calls on the federal government to develop and implement a national seniors strategy.