RAPELJE: Seniors voices must be heard
Hear our voice. What does that mean for the growing number of seniors and their families?
“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deepen meaning.” — Maya Angelon
There are many ways seniors voices are heard, such as through seniors advisory committees, councils on aging, seniors organizations, senior service providers, retirement associations and volunteers.
My first experience started back in the 1970s when I became involved with the Ontario Advisory Council on Seniors, National Advisory Council on Aging and Veterans Affairs Canada Gerontology Advisory Council — all with the mandate to be a voice for seniors.
More recently seniors advisory committees have been appointed in Niagara to serve in an advisory capacity to municipal councils and staff on matters that impact quality of life for seniors through the lens of seniors.
The first seniors advisory committee was appointed by Welland city council in 2008 and since then they have been established in other communities.
One of the 168 recommendations in the Niagara Aging Strategy and Action Plan is “request each municipality to form a seniors advisory committee selected by council.” As you can see that recommendations is being acted on.
The mandate of these committees is to advocate in the following ways:
• support and promote age-friendly principles;
• help implement recommendations set out in the Niagara Aging Strategy and Action Plan;
• engage the community in developing policies and programs that benefit seniors and form partnerships (for example, the Welland seniors advisory committee and Welland-Pelham Chamber of Commerce guide on creating an age-friendly business);
• host public forums and information sessions, and produce newsletters that inform and educate seniors, professions and families;
• initiate age-friendly needs assessments and community surveys to identify needs and priorities to better plan for seniors;
• promote a positive profile of seniors, recognizing the contributions they make in our communities and dispelling many of the common perceptions and assumptions about older people that are based on outdated stereotypes;
• serve as champions by developing a vision and support action that speaks to the needs of all seniors.
The people who serve on these committees are volunteers and council members. There are many more examples.
Long-term care facilities are required to have residents councils and family councils giving a voice to residents and families. As the majority of seniors live independently in our communities, we need a strong voice to advocate for support and services that they and some eight million informal caregivers in Canada need.
The economic value that outstanding caregivers who look after seniors save Canada’s health-care system is between $24 billion and $31 billion annually. It is important we hear their voice.
Niagara Health System has introduced the Senior-Friendly Hospital Plan and established community and patient advisory committees, providing other voices.
Sometimes it’s one voice, sometimes it’s many, but what is important that someone is listening and acting.
“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” — Malala Yousafzai
— Doug Rapelje is former director of Niagara Region’s social services and senior citizens department