It is no secret that Canada’s national health-care system must be reimagined from scratch. In the early 1970s, the program was new, and Statistics Canada reported a Canadian median age of 26. Today the median age is 41 — 58 per cent older. Our life expectancy in 1970 was 73. Today it’s 83. This is something to celebrate, although it’s also no secret that as we age, health challenges and demands on health systems increase significantly.
Eighteen per cent of our population has reached age 65 — almost one in five Canadians — and Canada’s health programs do not adequately recognize the needs of older people.
The pandemic has been a sorrowful reminder of this. According to Dr. Paula Rochon, vice-president of research at Women’s College Hospital and the RTOERO chair in Geriatric Medicine at the University of Toronto, “COVID-19 has shown us the cost of not investing.… Nothing and no one in health care can be marginalized.”
Vibrant Voices, RTOERO’s advocacy program, actively engages with governments and influencers in the health sector to ensure the needs of older Canadians are consistently top of mind. Its special focus includes:
- Promoting programs for aging in place
- Addressing health practices in long-term care homes
- Demanding proper recognition for all personal-care workers
- Encouraging implementation of a universal pharmacare program
- Promoting healthy aging initiatives
- Establishing mental health programs for older people
- Promoting education in geriatric health care
Vibrant Voices is an important collective voice. Just as important — and as influential — are single voices. Margaret Mead, the world-renowned anthropologist, wrote of the power of individual efforts: “All social change comes from the passion of individuals.”
There are many ways you can support geriatric well-being.
- Recognize the needs of older people you know. Help them find solutions to a lack of community, loneliness, nutrition and exercise deficiencies, digital illiteracy, transportation barriers, home safety and other challenges.
- Review community services for older people in your community. Promote the resources. If the resources don’t exist, find like-minded people and partners, and create them.
- Notice community locations that are inaccessible to anyone with mobility issues. Spearhead an initiative to provide access for everyone.
- Appeal to elected officials to deliver on their responsibilities to older people. Exercise your right to vote and make your voice heard at the polls.
- Encourage corporations to support programs targeting the needs of older people. Remind these companies that you are a consumer.
- Volunteer at community centres, long-term care homes, senior living residences and other establishments.
- Organize community events, apart from traditional or seasonal ones, for older people.
- Mobilize older people to engage with you when you speak to your local councillors or business decision-makers.
When you look with dedicated eyes, you’ll see how to make a difference. And you’ll find others who want to help. A single voice raised can become a choir.
To add your voice to RTOERO’s appeals and efforts to improve Canada’s geriatric health-care programs, visit rtoero.ca/giving-back/advocacy.