NCA Seniors Policy Statement

Introduction

Canada’s population is aging rapidly, as baby boomers enter retirement. As the country sees more retirement with fewer people replenishing the workforce, we face significant challenges in areas such as retirement funding, health care, and affordable housing. The National Citizens Alliance (NCA) supports actions that better support our seniors’ health and well-being within the context of federal jurisdiction. Our policy is primarily aimed at assisting lower income seniors, as it becomes increasingly difficult for them to meet their health care and housing expenses, and other expenses.

Income

Many seniors are finding it increasingly difficult to cover costs in their retirement years. Those who wish to work may experience age discrimination. Health care and prescription costs are not affordable to many. Cost of living increases to pensions and other funding sources may not adequately reflect the reality of rising costs. In addition, only one-third of Canadians have access to a workplace pension, meaning that many future retirees will have even greater pressure to invest in private savings. The age of eligibility for Old Age Security is going up from 65 to 67. Many people have no personal private retirement funds whatsoever. All of these financial challenges are heightened by increased longevity, which means that people must have adequate savings to last for a longer average retirement.

The NCA believes the most direct, meaningful way to help seniors meet their expenses is by increasing the Guaranteed Income Supplement and its Maximum Allowed Income levels.

The NCA supports a review of federal pension and old age security programs to ensure that inflation and cost of living increases are fully reflected therein.

The NCA supports giving disabled seniors the option of choosing 65 or 67 as their age of eligibility for OAS and GIS benefits. This allows them to choose between provincial and federal benefit options so that they will not be negatively affected by the change in the age of eligibility coming in 2023.

The NCA supports the recommendations of the National Seniors Council toward hiring and retaining Senior-aged workers, so that they may better support themselves independently, when possible. These include raising awareness of the value and benefits of senior workforce participation; building on the successes of existing federal initiatives; and engaging employers in planning for the aging workforce.

Per the NCA’s Employment and Economic Growth policy, we support tax incentives for companies who re-train and hire Senior-aged workers. This will allow more seniors to maintain an income and delay retirement, while helping Canada maintain a more knowledgeable and skilled workforce.

The NCA believes that seniors may be best served by a simplified, standardized Guaranteed Annual Income to replace Old Age Security, the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the Allowance Program. We will explore this option over the long run, and will encourage citizen-initiated legislation consistent with the process outlined in the NCA’s Constitution.

Health Care

Costs and accessibility of health care are a major concern for seniors. Prescription costs in particular are a challenge, even for those with some form of insurance. Wait times for “elective” surgeries (which include hip and knee replacements) are long; in some cases, longer for seniors than for others. Many seniors are malnourished, often as a result of being unable to afford a healthy diet, which in turn has a compounding effect on health issues, placing a greater financial burden to the affected and to taxpayers. While health care is primarily under the jurisdiction of the provincial government, there are things we can do from the federal level to help.

The NCA supports that necessary dental care costs are better defined and incorporated into calculations for Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplements.

The NCA supports that the federal government pay the tuition of health care workers focused on seniors’ care, for those working in care facilities and those engaging in on-site visits. Free tuition would be conditional (i.e. recipient must remain employed in Canada).

The NCA supports that a study be undertaken to determine deficiencies in public accessibility and transportation access (i.e. wheelchair accessible sidewalks, ramps, etc.). Recommendations for additional access and improvements will be made, and the federal government will provide funding to address any deficiencies within the context of its jurisdiction.

The NCA supports re-visiting of the National Pharmaceuticals Strategy, which was aimed at, among other things, addressing the cost effectiveness of prescriptions. The recommendations of that report included tighter management, more cooperation among jurisdictions, improved prescribing behaviour on the part of health professionals, and devising strategies to address demographic trends. The NCA recommends that bulk investments in pharmaceuticals be strongly considered as part of this strategy.

The NCA will convene a conference among representatives from the provinces and territories to address wait times. This will promote an exchange of views on what methods are most effective for reducing wait times, as well as ideas and strategies for effective collaboration among the provinces and territories.

Housing

Seniors want independence, while maintaining access to health services. There is a shortage of affordable accommodation for seniors, including those who need support from health services.

The NCA proposes increasing the funding provided to the provinces earmarked for seniors’ care facilities. Further, the Bank of Canada, in its role of managing public debt programs, should provide funding for medical facilities for seniors at near-zero interest rates.

The NCA recommends additional investment in the Affordable Housing Initiative, via an AHI program targeted directly at seniors. This program would specialize in housing specific to seniors, recognizing the specialized needs of seniors, including access to health care services.

The NCA will encourage those provinces and territories not already involved to engage in the Government of Canada’s Age-Friendly Communities Initiative, which values seniors and encourages the development of community amenities that improve accessibility, affordability, safety, support services and activities for seniors.

Ombudsperson

The NCA supports the establishment of a Seniors Ombudsperson. This office will respond to Seniors’ complaints relating to unfair treatment in those areas where the federal government has jurisdiction, and will forward complaints to the appropriate provincial office if the federal government does not have jurisdiction.

Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is a serious issue which takes many forms, including financial, physical and psychological. Victims may be less able to protect themselves, due to mental health and/or physical health issues, unfamiliarity with new technology, and confusion.

The NCA supports the recommendations of the National Seniors Council, including:

● Raising awareness

● Working with provinces and post-secondary institutions to encourage curriculum and standards development for health care professionals

● Conducting further research on the causes, prevalence, impact, and tools for addressing elder abuse

● Supporting resources that build capacity within the voluntary sector to respond to elder abuse

Summary

The NCA supports the following:

● Meaningful increase in the Guaranteed Income Supplement and its Maximum Allowed Income levels

● Review of federal pension and old age security programs to ensure that inflation and cost of living increases are fully reflected therein

● Giving disabled seniors the option of choosing 65 or 67 as their age of eligibility for OAS and GIS benefits

● Action on the recommendations of the National Seniors Council toward hiring and retaining Senior-aged workers

● Tax incentives for companies who re-train and hire Senior-aged workers

● Exploration of replacing some of the layers of seniors’ government benefits with one simplified, standardized Guaranteed Annual Income

● Necessary dental care costs be better defined and incorporated into calculations for Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplements

● Study be undertaken to determine deficiencies in public accessibility and transportation access

● Re-visiting of the National Pharmaceuticals Strategy to address the cost effectiveness of prescription medications

● Convening a conference among representatives from the provinces and territories to address wait times

● More funding aimed at increasing the number of qualified health care workers assisting seniors

● Increasing funding for seniors’ care facilities

● Bank of Canada funding for seniors’ medical care facilities at near-zero interest rates

● Additional investment in the Affordable Housing Initiative, via an AHI program targeted directly at seniors

● Encouragement of those provinces and territories not already involved to engage in the Government of Canada’s Age-Friendly Communities Initiative

● Establishment of federal Ombudsperson’s office for seniors

● Further action on the recommendations of the National Seniors Council regarding elder abuse

Conclusion

The National Citizens Alliance supports many steps to improve the health and well-being of our seniors, and to address their concerns. The NCA will work with any other party that shares its values and strategy toward senior citizens.

Created: 2015-03-20/21/22; last updated: 2017-01-10

The NCA membership vote on 2015-03-20/21/22. The vote resulted in 100 percent of membership in favour of the Seniors Policy Statement with a 100 percent quorum. This vote outcome satisfies the minimum 70 percent membership support and 50 percent quorum required for adoption of policies as per the NCA Constitution.

The NCA welcomes feedback on its policies. Please send policy feedback to info@nationalcitizensalliance.ca

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