Addressing the social isolation of seniors

Alice Wong

Alice Wong, Minister of State for Seniors

Social isolation touches many aspects of a senior’s life, such as active participation, healthy aging, income security, care giving, and transportation.

It can lead to depression and increased vulnerability to becoming a victim of elder abuse.

According to Statistics Canada’s 2012 health report, one in four seniors reported that they would have liked to have participated in more social activities.

To address the issue of social isolation among seniors, Alice Wong, minister of state for seniors, and members of the National Seniors Council (NSC) met recently with seniors’ organizations, service and health providers, researchers and practitioners to discuss how social isolation affects seniors. They also wanted to explore ways to prevent and/or reduce its occurrence.

Between November 2013 and June 2014, the NSC met with individuals and organizations from across Canada as part of a series of cross-country consultations. The recent roundtable marks the conclusion of these consultations and serves to validate what was heard.

The NSC is set to submit its recommendations to Minister Wong (who oversees the work of the council), the minister of employment and social development, and the minister of health, by the end of the year.

“Our government is committed to helping seniors maintain a high quality of life and be active members of their communities,” says Minister Wong. “We are working with our partners to encourage seniors to stay active, engaged and informed in a rapidly changing world. That’s why it’s so important to address the issue of social isolation by listening to seniors and consulting with key players from the non-profit, public and private sectors.”

The NSC was established in 2007 to advise the Government of Canada on matters related to the well-being and quality of life of seniors, including the opportunities and challenges arising from a rapidly growing and increasingly diverse population of seniors.

Since its inception, the NSC has undertaken work on elder abuse, the effects of low incomes among seniors, volunteerism, and positive and active aging. Most recently, it explored approaches to attracting older workers to the labour force and retaining them.

“We are confident that the National Seniors Council’s finding will help the Government of Canada better understand and address the needs of seniors,” says Dr. Andrew Wister, chair of the NSC. “Keeping seniors active and socially engaged benefits not just the seniors, but also their communities as a whole.”

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