Saskatchewan senior citizens have contributed so much to our province, and deserve to enjoy the fruits of their labours in retirement. With the baby boomer generation entering their senior years, we will see seniors making up a growing share of our population.
Currently, too many seniors are experiencing poverty and insecurity. Too many have to choose between paying for necessary medications or paying for housing, are facing escalating housing costs, or are dealing with social isolation. And too often it seems as though no one is speaking up for seniors.
We need a plan to ensure our seniors a high quality of life, ample opportunities to engage and contribute, and the supports they need to age well in the years ahead. Connection to community is important at every phase of life, but perhaps no time more so than one’s senior years. Social isolation is a scourge that affects far too many seniors, and this diminished contact and loss of intergenerational engagement impacts all of us.
The shutdown of STC has proven particularly damaging for seniors, making it more difficult for many to visit family and friends or make appointments. I’ve heard from many people forced to choose between staying at home in smaller communities or moving to the city. No one should be forced to choose between maintaining the social connections they’ve spent a lifetime building and accessing the health services they need.
We must also do a better job of providing seniors with the most up-to-date and accessible information regarding the government services available to them, including health care, housing, pension benefits and education. At the same time, it is also very important that government be aware of and responsive to the changing needs of seniors and retirees to ensure that these services meet their needs.
Instead of the current scattershot approach, Saskatchewan seniors deserve a forward-looking, province-wide aging strategy that includes a dementia strategy, responds to social isolation with a plan to enhance community connection, and ensures that a provincial housing strategy takes the needs of older adults into account. We can and must make Saskatchewan a place where our elders are valued and able to age with dignity.
- Establish a Seniors’ Advocate office that helps seniors access information on supports and services, reports on challenges faced by seniors, and advocates for policy that will improve the quality of life of older adults;
- Develop a provincial housing strategy that addresses the unique needs of seniors, including those navigating a transition from full independence to long-term care;
- Help seniors stay in their own homes longer through expanded home care, expanded assisted living options with more caregivers in existing buildings, and greater respite and other supports for families caring for seniors at home;
- Explore having SGI introduce long-term care insurance or other means of helping people plan ahead for long-term care;
- Ensure that persons living with disabilities are well-supported in their senior years;
- Rebuild a provincial bus service that connects well with urban public transit;
- In contrast to the Sask Party plan to sell off seniors’ social housing stock in smaller communities, we should partner with rural and urban municipalities to expand the opportunities for people to age safely in their hometowns;
- Restore coverage of podiatry and the hearing aid plan and expand basic dental coverage.
- Introduce universal pharmacare to cover all prescriptions without co-pay;
- Include the shingles vaccine in the covered immunizations for seniors;
- Engage with the Choosing Wisely approach and deprescription efforts to decrease unnecessary and potentially harmful prescriptions and procedures;
- Establish a zero-interest financing program for major purchases such as dentures or hearing aids to allow people to have immediate access to essential medical supports;
- Establish a dementia strategy to proactively address the growing incidence of this condition.
Just as we can and should make Saskatchewan the best place to grow up, we will all benefit from ensuring that Saskatchewan is a great place to spend our senior years. We owe it to our elders and to ourselves.