Statistics Canada reports that 18 per cent of Canadians were aged 65 or older as of July 1, 2020. That’s nearly 6.9 million adults, many of whom will wrestle with health and socio-economic challenges in their later years. RTOERO’s advocacy arm, Vibrant Voices, advocates for health and financial initiatives that protect older people and create a more compassionate Canada for everyone.
RTOERO’s Seniors’ Strategy, in collaboration with our members and partners, focuses on:
- Protecting the rights of older persons
- Eliminating crime and abuse against elders
- Increasing financial security for seniors
- Upgrading standards for health care and well-being
- Eliminating ageism
Ageism is the root of many challenges faced by older Canadians. Education, entertainment and marketing content underrepresent and often incorrectly portray older people, their lifestyles and their needs. Careers in gerontology are not considered glamorous. Legislation committed to changing these attitudes is top of mind during political campaigns but buried once elections are won. Contributions older people make to their families and communities are undervalued.
RTOERO has created a coordinated strategy to ensure that older Canadians can continue to play their important role in creating vibrant communities and economies. It provides dedicated funding and manages accountability for outcomes.
Doing what’s right
Canada’s infrastructure “does not deal with the complexities of older life,” reports Margaret Gillis, president of the International Longevity Centre Canada. “We need an accountability system,” she argues. Gillis worries about older people and their legal challenges, and is currently leading the movement to convince Canada to support a United Nations Convention on the Rights of Older Persons that will hold countries responsible for how they treat their elders.
The Canadian Department of Justice assessment Crime and Abuse Against Seniors (2015) estimates crime and abuse affects one in 10 older adults. It reports that financial exploitation and emotional abuse are not only common but also occur frequently at home and in institutions.
Building financial stability
Financial insecurity is a significant threat for older people. Statistics Canada reports 12 per cent of senior families have low income. The number reaches 28.5 per cent for single older people. RTOERO believes that some solutions lie with government; namely, in supporting and protecting defined-benefit pension plans, which are a proven method of making retirement secure for all Canadians. RTOERO requests that influencers establish measures aimed at identifying older people who are struggling to manage essential expenses, including health-care costs.
Improving health care and well-being
Anita Plunkett, a registered practical nurse who trains personal-care workers, knows Canada’s health-care infrastructure well and is witness to the treatment of older Canadians who are aging at home or in institutions. “The systems need a complete overhaul,” she says. Plunkett maintains that health models “don’t consider the whole picture” and believes they should address older people’s physical, mental and spiritual requirements.
Both Gillis and Plunkett advise governments to encourage careers — at all levels — in gerontology. Canada needs geriatricians, and all medical students should receive more geriatric training. Our nation needs more qualified personal-care workers for older people as well, and they must be properly recognized and compensated. “Gerontology needs to be a respected designation,” says Gillis. RTOERO agrees.
Your voice can help ensure health and financial security for older Canadians. Make it heard. Meet with, phone and write to elected officials, people of influence and stakeholders. To find out how, visit rtoero.ca/giving-back/advocacy.