Our aging strategy must include women

There are now over 6.8 million seniors in Canada. By 2026, we expect our country to become a super-aged society, where 20% of the population will be 65 or older.

Yet Canada faces a major policy gap: the lack of a national plan to support our aging population.

The impact of the pandemic on older adults, especially long-term care homes, calls for critical action. Along with long-term care reform, we need a plan to meet the health needs of older Canadians in the community where 93% of seniors live.

Canada has approximately 304 geriatricians, for example—one geriatrician for every 100,000—and a lack of access to primary care, far from sufficient to meet the demand of our elderly population, particularly in rural areas.

It is time we had a national strategy on aging.

This strategy must be inclusive. A one-size-fits-all approach to supporting healthy aging will leave many Canadians behind, primarily women. Older women make up the majority of the aging population.

Women have specific and unique health needs that are often not recognized by our health system and its care providers. Some medical conditions such as osteoporosis, thyroid problems and headaches, for example, present more often in women, and other conditions, such as heart disease, present differently and are not always recognized by clinicians. Older women are also more likely to experience side effects from medications and may require lower doses of certain medications than men.

These health problems are further compounded by the socio-cultural and economic inequalities that women face throughout their lives. Older people, especially older women, do not always have access to uninsured health services, such as dental, vision and hearing care. They are more likely than men to face poverty and lack the means to afford appropriate care to live in their communities.

An effective aging strategy would enable older people to actively participate and contribute within their communities, provide affordable options for health care and social services, and address systemic inequalities based on gender and age.

Healthy aging is a major global priority – it is high on the agenda of the United Nations and the World Health Organization. Countries such as Japan and Singapore have made significant investments to support their older populations, including promoting lifelong learning and social integration, as well as establishing home care and residential facilities. age-friendly services and designing age-friendly technologies.

In Arnsberg, Germany, considered one of the most age-friendly cities in the world, seniors can access affordable housing and care options, contribute and participate in social life, and feel connected. to their communities.

The world has given us a model to build our own roadmap. We must apply these lessons and develop a way forward to meet the unique needs of Canadians and build our own age-friendly communities.

We need a strategy.

Dr. Paula Rochon is a geriatrician and founding director, and Surbhi Kalia is the chief strategy officer for the Women’s Age Lab at Women’s College Hospital.
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