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The Future of Aging in Canada Virtual Symposium: What We Heard

Executive Summary

On June 8th, 2021, the Federal / Provincial / Territorial Forum of Ministers Responsible for Seniors hosted a Virtual Stakeholder Symposium on the future of aging in Canada. With help from national partner organizations, AGE-WELL NCE, the Canadian Association of Gerontology, the Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, and United Way Centraide Canada, the Symposium explored four key themes:

  1. Technology to support seniors aging in community;
  2. Research and innovation in healthy aging;
  3. Addressing and preventing elder abuse; and
  4. Emerging best practices in supports for seniors and responding to social isolation.

The opening presentation highlighted the growing role of technology, or AgeTech, in supporting aging in place. Recent results from an AGE-WELL NCE survey indicated that more than 70% of Canadians over the age of 65 are confident using current technology and 66% of those aged 55 and over are willing to pay out-of-pocket for technologies that will help them remain at home and in their communities. However, barriers remain to successful adoption of technologies that support aging in place. Guest speakers and Symposium participants shared that not all seniors can afford new technologies and the necessary infrastructure for high-speed internet is not accessible in every community. Moreover, many technologies are not designed with senior users in mind, making them difficult to use and incorporate into everyday life. And, lastly, support and training are needed to improve digital literacy for older Canadians, as they did not grow up with the kinds of technologies that are available today. As more and more of the world goes digital, increased efforts will need to be made to bridge the digital divide for seniors in Canada. The next theme discussed at the Symposium was research and innovation in healthy aging. Aging research plays an important role in informed decision-making at individual, community, health service delivery, and policy levels. Symposium speakers and participants were asked to consider the core elements of a research agenda for the future of aging Canada:

  1. The first item on the agenda was equity, diversity, and inclusion. Seniors in Canada are a diverse group of people with different backgrounds, cultures, and lived experiences. Taking an intersectional approach to research on aging will generate a deeper understanding of the unique needs and goals of older Canadians while respecting the ways that their different identities have shaped their lives.
  2. Second, research on aging should include seniors and caregivers as research partners. When it comes to the challenges associated with aging, there are no better experts than seniors themselves. Research is an opportunity to amplify their voices and experiences so that Canadians can better understand the aging experience.
  3. Lastly, Canada’s aging research agenda should focus on improving supports for aging in place. Canadians want to remain at home and in their communities for as long as possible. More research on best practices and innovations in home care, format supports, and unpaid caregiving will help inform solutions that allow seniors to age the way that they want to, in the places that they want to be in.

During the second half of the Symposium, the conversation shifted to focus on some of the important social issues that seniors are facing: elder abuse and social isolation. Elder abuse comes in many different forms, it can be physical, emotional, financial, psychological, etc. Recent data suggests that the prevalence of elder abuse and mistreatment in Canada is about 8.2%. However, because elder abuse is so often underreported, it is estimated that up to 10% of older Canadians are actually victims of one or more kinds of abuse. The situation worsened during the pandemic. As Canadians were asked to remain at home, many older adults became further disconnected and socially isolated, which are important risk factors for abuse. Symposium speakers and participants identified several areas for further research and action. The first was improved data collection on elder abuse to better understand its prevalence and the ways it is experienced by different groups of seniors. More training and education programs, as well as information on existing interventions and best practices were also discussed as critical components of a broader roadmap to ending elder abuse in Canada. Lastly, Symposium speakers explored emerging best practices in supports for seniors and responding to social isolation. Even before the pandemic struck, the International Federation on Ageing had declared social isolation as the number one issue facing seniors in Canada. When asked about promising practices to reducing social isolation, Symposium speakers and participants acknowledged the important contributions of senior-serving community organizations. Community organizations provide supports like service navigation, grocery shopping, meal preparation, housekeeping, etc. and ensure seniors stay connected through wellness checks, social and physical activities, and regular programming. For many seniors, community organizations became their main point of connection to food, services, mental health support, and friends over the last year. These organizations continuously step up to the plate to make sure that older Canadians receive the supports they need in their communities. Technologies and intergenerational programming were also highlighted as effective tools for reducing isolation. Symposium participants shared success stories of pivoting to online services and how digital platforms have allowed them to connect more seniors. They also discussed the positive impacts of intergenerational programs like InterAGE, which help seniors form meaningful relationships, learn new skills, and stay connected to their communities while also providing mentorship and connection for young people. At the close of the Symposium, speakers and participants considered their vision for the future of aging in Canada. In this future, aging will be supported. AgeTech will be accessible, affordable, and designed to meet the needs of older Canadians. Senior-serving organizations will have the flexibility and the resources they need to support seniors aging in community. Additionally, intergenerational relationships will keep older adults connected and engaged with

family members and friends throughout their life course. The future of aging will also be inclusive. In 20 years from now, the diversity of experiences of aging will be better heard and understood. Ageism will be as unacceptable as racism, and concerted efforts will be made to reach seniors in underserved communities and provide culturally competent and safe services to Indigenous seniors. Lastly, in the future, aging will be celebrated. Older adults and their caregivers will be acknowledged as valued partners at every table, and more cities and communities will be age-friendly. The path forward to achieving this vision requires collective action. But, together, Canadians can build a future where everyone can age well at home, in their communities, and surrounded by the people they care about the most.

Read the Report Here
  • By

    Federal, Provincial and Territorial Forum of Ministers Responsible for Seniors

  • Published

    Dec 19, 2022

  • Subject Area
    • Age-friendly Communities
    • General Health and Wellness
    • Housing
    • Information, Referral, & Advocacy
    • Intergenerational initiatives
    • Mental Health and Wellness
    • Organizational Development
    • Rural and Remote Communities
    • Safety, Security, Finances, & Personal Planning
    • Social Connectedness / Social Isolation
    • Social Connectedness / Social Isolation
    • Mental Health and Wellness
    • Safety, Security, Finances, & Personal Planning
  • Audience
    • Academics
    • Health Authorities
    • Caregivers, Seniors & Volunteers
    • Service Providers (Non-profits, Community Organizations, Local government)
    • Service Providers (Non-profits, Community Organizations, Local government)
    • Government
    • Caregivers, Seniors & Volunteers
  • Category
    • Best Practices
    • Research & Evidence
    • Policy, Planning, & Procedures
    • Applications, Annual Reporting, & Data Collection
    • Events & Webinars
    • Provincial Resources
    • Transportation
    • Rural & Remote Communities

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