After months of study, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development, and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA) has tabled the report Advancing Inclusion and Quality of Life for Seniors.
The study was triggered by Motion-106, introduced by Liberal MP Marc Serré (Nickle Belt), which called upon the government to kick-start the development of a National Seniors Strategy. The motion was agreed to by all members in May 2017.
National Association of Federal Retirees’ President Jean-Guy Soulière and Director of Advocacy Sayward Montague presented to the committee in October 2017. Read more.
Witnesses shared their insights and recommendations on how the government can support vulnerable seniors and better prepare for Canada’s growing seniors population. Topics focused on access to affordable and accessible housing; income security for seniors; community programs to promote social inclusion and social determinants of health.
Aging in Canada presents many challenges and opportunities. While more Canadians are leading healthy, vibrant lives into their senior years, people are more likely to experience economic, health and social challenges in their advanced age.
That’s why this report it so important. It includes 29 unique recommendations related to income support, housing, home care, caregiving and age-friendly communities and a call for the development of a National Seniors Strategy.
National Seniors Strategy
Federal Retirees has long advocated for a National Seniors Strategy. A seniors strategy will provide a blueprint for an integrated continuum of care to meet the needs of a growing population of seniors as well as support a strong economy across generations.
The report recommends dedicating resources for a seniors strategy that includes a vision for aging in dignity, monitoring and sharing promising practices and the promotion of partnerships on areas such as transportation, social inclusion and accessing services.
What’s missing is a deadline for implementation or monitoring, reporting and accountability measures tied to the initiative.
The report includes several other recommendations to help improve the well-being and quality of life for older Canadians – many of which have been advocated for by Federal Retirees for years. In fact, Federal Retirees is recognized throughout the report.
Better Income and Retirement Security
Better income and retirement security initiatives are among the first recommendations of the Committee, such as review and update the Guaranteed Income Supplement and increase the Working Tax Benefit.
It is promising to see a recommendation to tighten the rules and regulatory environment which has allowed some employers to under-fund pensions and ignore their pension obligations under current law and practice.
Consistent home care services
The Committee recommended the development of home care pan-Canadian guidelines, certification process and comparable standards for working conditions for home care workers, among others. If implemented, national guidelines could support greater home care consistency and a standard level of care across the provinces and territories.
We know caregiving can be a rewarding experience but can also lead to financial hardship and health challenges for the caregiver. Notable in the report, is the recommendation to make the Canada Caregiver Credit refundable and raise awareness of its availability – something the National Association has long advocated for.
Age-friendly communities can assist with social isolation, mobility and the availability and accessibility of community services. The Committee proposed a study of age-friendly communities and zoning practices to better understand how these policies can shape practices and programs, the impacts and long-term effects.
Minister for Seniors
A glaring omission is the recommendation for a Minister of Seniors.
“You need to have this coordinated somewhere, and that's why a Minister of Seniors is so important, in my view and in our view as an Association. It's so you get all the information in one place, digest it in one place, and act in one place,” advised Mr. Soulière.
A Minister of Seniors would provide the necessary oversight to ensure the swift implementation of a National Seniors Strategy and drive this vision forward.