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Our people are getting older. Government hasn’t got wiser

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The median age of Canadians is 41 – up from 30 in 1981. In 16 years, a quarter of Canadians will be seniors – up from just eight per cent in 1960. Our rapidly ageing population will have many serious effects on Canadian society.

Is Ontario prepared for the grey boom? Under the Ford government, our health care system is already struggling to respond to patient needs. And despite vague electoral promises to end “hallway medicine,” nothing has been done. In fact, the Tories are cutting health care by keeping spending below inflation and population growth.

Home care is of particular concern. It’s far more cost-effective to care for individuals in their homes. But home care nurses can barely survive on minimal wages. And with the Ford government tying post-secondary funding to performance metrics like salary, programs for chronically low-paying jobs like home care will dry up.

Beyond health care, we must begin paying more serious attention to older people’s needs and challenges. This includes housing and public transit, and not just in the larger urban centres. Already, public long-term care homes are bursting at the seams, leaving some residents in hospital rooms – at a vastly increased cost to taxpayers.

With defined-benefit pensions under attack in both the private and public sectors, neither seniors nor their children will be able to afford private long-term care. Where will seniors go?

Clearly, the low-tax, low-service, low-wage agenda promoted by Conservatives is completely ill-suited to the realities of today, let alone tomorrow. We must make important investments in older people right now – and not wait till we’re in a full-blown crisis.

The 2019 theme of Older Persons Day is “The Journey to Age Equality.” A vision of the future that doesn’t take concrete account of the needs and dignity of older Ontarians is inequitable and deeply flawed. It’s time for governments at all levels to give the soon-to-be 25 per cent of the population as much attention as any other demographic – and not just on election day.

One way to help make sure this happens is to create a ministry for older persons whose budget and clout reflect the growing importance of older persons – a ministry that vigorously promotes their well-being and leverages their experience and talents so they can make maximize their contributions to the life of their communities. How about it, Mr. Ford?

In solidarity,
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer