Information for Seniors
Parliament for 2015
Richmond Electoral District
July 24, 2015 Ottawa, Ontario Employment and Social Development Canada
The Honourable Alice Wong, Minister of State (Seniors), was pleased today to highlight the Government of Canada’s ongoing efforts with organizations such as The Salvation Army, to help improve the lives of seniors across the country.
Through programs such as the new Supporting Homeless Seniors Program, the Government of Canada is committed to helping vulnerable seniors—particularly those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, and who are incapable of managing their own affairs—to receive the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS) benefits for which they are eligible.
The Government is undertaking targeted efforts, working closely with municipalities, community organizations and front-line outreach and service providers, to increase their capacity to assist seniors who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Through the Supporting Homeless Seniors Program, community organizations that are non-profit or registered charitable organizations and municipalities can apply to act as third-party administrators of CPP and/or OAS benefits for homeless seniors. As a third-party administrator, qualified individuals and organizations can apply for and receive CPP and/or OAS benefits on behalf of the senior they serve and represent, and then pay out the benefits in the best interest of that person.
The Salvation Army gives hope and support to vulnerable people, including seniors in over 400 communities across Canada. They offer assistance to seniors, tending to the basic necessities of life, which includes providing shelter for those who are homeless, as well as other supports and services for homeless, vulnerable seniors.
- The Government of Canada is committed to the well-being of Canada’s seniors by working with all levels of government, seniors’ organizations and stakeholders to develop policies and programs that support seniors.
- The Supporting Homeless Seniors Program builds on other activities the Government has undertaken to support vulnerable seniors, who are often socially isolated. Ongoing initiatives include:
- The New Horizons for Seniors Program, which funds projects that will help prevent and reduce social isolation among seniors; and,
- The Homelessness Partnering Strategy, a community-based program aimed at preventing and reducing homelessness by providing direct support and funding to 61 designated communities, as well as Aboriginal, rural and remote communities across Canada.
- Social isolation is commonly defined as a low quantity and quality of contact with others. Social isolation involves a situation of few social contacts, few social roles and the absence of mutually rewarding relationships.
“Through the Supporting Homeless Seniors Program, the Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that homeless seniors receive the CPP and OAS benefits for which they are eligible. We are working closely with front-line organizations to reach and support Canada’s most vulnerable seniors.”
– The Honourable Alice Wong, Minister of State (Seniors)
“The Salvation Army is excited about the targeted efforts the Government has taken to assist one of our often-forgotten assets: our aging Canadians, a growing community in Canada that is increasingly marginalized and in need of assistance.”
– Tony Brushett, Assistant Executive Director, The Salvation Army, Ottawa Booth Centre
“In Ottawa more than 9,000 seniors live in poverty and 6% don’t receive the support they need. With an aging population, these numbers are expected to increase in Canada. Today’s announcement will go a long way to support the most vulnerable seniors in our communities by helping to increase access to financial resources that are critical for those seniors who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.”
– Carole Gagnon, Vice President, Community Investment, United Way Ottawa
“As a current funder of a voluntary Trusteeship program, the City of Windsor is very supportive of the Supporting Homeless Seniors Program. The proposed changes will provide easier access to financial management, coaching and vital income supports that allow individuals and families who are at risk to obtain housing and remain housed.”
–Community Development and Health Services, City of Windsor
“Through the provisions of the Supporting Homeless Seniors Program, the Trusteeship program administered by the City of Brantford is better able to assist homeless seniors with managing their income in a concerted effort to address homelessness and to prevent the risk of homelessness. The program provides us with a greater capacity to assist older adults in our community who are vulnerable and at higher risk of homelessness.”
– Jo Atanas, City of Brantford General Manager, Social Services
Supporting Homeless Seniors Program
The Government of Canada is committed to reaching homeless seniors and ensuring they receive the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS) benefits for which they are eligible.
Non-profit and registered charitable organizations and municipalities can apply to act as administrators of CPP and/or OAS benefits for seniors who are homeless, or at imminent risk of being homeless, and who are incapable of managing their own affairs. This will apply only in cases where the Minister of Employment and Social Development is not aware of the existence of another person or agency already authorized to manage the individual’s financial affairs.
To find out if an organization or municipality qualifies as a third-party administrator, or to apply to become one, visit servicecanada.gc.ca.
Canada’s public pensions
Canada’s public pensions have played a major role in reducing the incidence of low income among seniors, from 21.4 percent in 1980 to 5.2 percent in 2011. Canada now has one of the lowest rates of low income among seniors in the world.
The CPP is a stable, well-designed plan that is portable from province to province and fiscally sustainable over the long run. The Chief Actuary of Canada has confirmed that the CPP is financially sound and is fully sustainable for generations to come.
The OAS program is funded through general tax revenues and provides a basic monthly income for Canadian seniors. The Guaranteed Income Supplement and the Allowances provide additional income to low-income pensioners, their spouses or common-law partners, and eligible survivors.
New Horizons for Seniors Program
The New Horizons for Seniors Program (NHSP) is a federal grants and contributions program that supports projects led or inspired by seniors who make a difference in the lives of others and their communities. Through the NHSP, the Government of Canada encourages seniors to share their knowledge, skills and experiences to the benefit of others.
The objectives of the NHSP are:
- promoting volunteerism among seniors;
- engaging seniors in the community through mentoring of others;
- expanding awareness of elder abuse, including financial abuse;
- supporting social participation and inclusion of seniors; and
- providing capital assistance for new and existing community projects and/or programs for seniors.
NHSP funding supports community-based and pan-Canadian projects that help to keep Canadian seniors active, engaged and informed. Recent NHSP calls for proposals for both community-based projects and pan-Canadian projects closed on July 10, 2015.
Community-based projects under the New Horizons for Seniors Program (NHSP) that enable seniors to share their knowledge, skills and experiences with others, and help communities increase their capacity to address local issues, are eligible to receive up to $25,000 per year, per organization.
Pan-Canadian projects test and share best practices across the country, and replicate interventions that have worked well in addressing seniors’ issues. The Pan-Canadian 2015-2016 call for proposals focuses on projects that help to reduce social isolation among seniors. Previous calls for proposals have focused on increasing the awareness of elder abuse, including financial abuse. Pan-Canadian projects may be funded between $150,000 and $750,000, for up to a maximum of three years.
For more information on the NHSP, visit Canada.ca/Seniors.
Homelessness Partnering Strategy
The Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS) is a unique community-based program aimed at preventing and reducing homelessness by providing direct support and funding to 61 designated communities in all provinces and territories, as well as to Aboriginal, rural and remote communities across Canada, to help them address homelessness.
Economic Action Plan 2013 renewed the HPS with nearly $600 million in total funding over five years, ending in March 2019, using a Housing First approach.
Until recently, the most common way to deal with homelessness has been a “crisis-based” model—not just in Canada, but in many developed countries. This model involves relying heavily on shelters and other emergency interventions. Typically, individuals must first participate in a series of treatments and demonstrate sobriety before they are offered housing. This approach has been costly and not effective for the long term.
Without stable housing, it is much more difficult to participate in treatment programs and manage mental and physical health issues. This leads to high costs for emergency housing, hospitalization, shelters, prisons and a host of other crisis services.
Housing First, on the other hand, involves ensuring individuals have immediate housing before providing the necessary supports to help them stabilize their lives. Experiences in other countries have demonstrated that this approach shows great promise.
In 2008 the Government invested $110 million in the Mental Health Commission of Canada to undertake our own landmark study. The results demonstrated that:
- Housing First rapidly ends homelessness and leads to other positive outcomes for quality of life;
- it is a sound financial investment that can lead to significant cost savings. Every $10 invested in Housing First services led to an average savings to government of $21.72 for participants who used emergency and social services the most; and
- it works in the long term. Over the course of the study, participants in the Housing First group spent an average of 73 percent of their time in stable housing, compared to 32 percent for the group receiving usual care.
Overall, the project demonstrated that the Housing First approach can reduce the economic and social costs of homelessness, such as those related to health care and the justice system. In addition, those who received both housing and supportive services showed more signs of recovery than those who did not.
The following is a message from Alice Wong:
On July 1st, Canadians from coast to coast will commemorate the birth of our great nation as Canada celebrates its 148th birthday. With our rich history, vast natural and cultural heritage, strong values and sense of purpose, there is so much to be proud of. As Canadians, we are truly fortunate to call Canada home. I hope you celebrate with me by attending one of the many events that are happening in our community. Happy Canada Day.
Helping Canadians better understand the dangers lasers pose to aircraft
June 24, 2015 – Vancouver, British Columbia – Transport Canada
The Honourable Alice Wong, Minister of State (Seniors), on behalf of the Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport, today launched the Government of Canada’s safety awareness campaign for lasers. The national campaign will help Canadians better understand why pointing a laser at aircraft is not a bright idea.
The first phase of the campaign, unveiled today in collaboration with the Vancouver International Airport, the RCMP, and NAV CANADA, provides the public with an easy to follow infographic, which clarifies the dangers and consequences of pointing lasers into airspace and how incidents can be reported. This summer, the second phase of the campaign will include digital advertising, awareness videos and a direct mail campaign near three major airports.
Transport Canada has also launched tc.gc.ca/NotABrightIdea, which provides Canadians with the information they need to better understand the dangers of pointing a laser at an aircraft.
Transport Canada is working closely with police, other government departments, and the aviation industry to protect pilots, passengers, and people on the ground. If you see a laser pointed at an aircraft, report it to your local police.
- The number of lasers pointed at aircraft is rising in Canada. In 2014, there were 502 reported incidents – a 43% increase since 2012.
- Aiming a laser at an aircraft is a federal offence. If convicted under the Aeronautics Act, an offender could face up to $100,000 in fines, 5 years in prison, or both.
- Canadians can join the conversation and learn more by using the #NotABrightIdea hashtag on Twitter.
“It should be a no brainer that pointing lasers at any part of an aircraft is dangerous. This awareness campaign will help Canadians better understand the serious risks and consequences of pointing a laser at an airplane. By working closely with our partners, we can help to reduce the number of incidents at Canada’s airports.”
The Honourable Alice Wong
Minister of State (Seniors)
“At YVR, our number one priority is safety. We are working with our partners to increase education and awareness about the impact of laser strikes. We will be going out into the community this summer to provide the public with more information. The bottom line is—don’t point a laser at an aircraft.”
President & CEO
Vancouver Airport Authority
“Suspects who choose to target aircraft with lasers show a careless and wanton disregard for the safety of the pilots, passengers and the communities surrounding airports. Those caught will be prosecuted according to both federal and provincial acts and will be subject to substantial fines and jail time.”
C.V. (Cam) Kowalski, Sgt.
June 19, 2015 – Vancouver, British Columbia and Edmonton, Alberta – Employment and Social Development Canada
The Honourable Alice Wong, Minister of State (Seniors) and the Honourable Kevin Sorenson, Minister of State (Finance), officially launched today a faster and easier online application for the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). It allows retirees to complete and submit their CPP retirement pension application entirely online in just a few clicks, replacing the online process which required claimants to complete a long and cumbersome application online, and print and mail a signed signature page.
This is part of the Harper Government’s efforts to continually improve Canadians’ access to the benefits and services they need.
- The My CPP Retirement online application, available within My Service Canada Account, is a complete and secure end-to-end self-serve online process that allows clients to quickly and easily apply for their CPP retirement pension.
- It uses existing departmental information that Service Canada already has on file (i.e. name, address and telephone number) to pre-populate the fields, streamlining and accelerating the application process and creating efficiencies for the Department and Canadians.
- It is recommended that claimants apply 6 months before they want their retirement pension to begin; however, not more than 12 months ahead of time.
- Both the Canadian Retirement Income Calculator and the CPP Statement of Contributions are tools that can help claimants determine the best time to start their retirement pension and get an estimate of how much they might receive.
- Clients can still apply by completing the paper application form or by visiting a Service Canada Centre.
- In fiscal year 2014–15, Service Canada processed approximately 280,000 new CPP retirement pension applications.
“The Harper Government is committed to providing modern, accessible and convenient online services to Canadians while generating administrative efficiencies through process automation. This new online application makes applying for the CPP retirement pension easier for Canadians.”
– The Honourable Alice Wong, Minister of State (Seniors)
“Our Government is taking major steps to simplify and modernize the CPP application process. Now, more than ever, Canadians can access benefits online in a timely and secure manner.”
– The Honourable Kevin Sorenson, Minister of States (Finance)
Government of Canada announces project promoting social inclusion of seniors and marks World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
June 15, 2015 Ottawa, Ontario Employment and Social Development Canada
The Honourable Alice Wong, Minister of State (Seniors), today announced New Horizons for Seniors Program (NHSP) funding worth $25,000 to HelpAge Canada for their Seen Your Citizen? project. Minister Wong also marked World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD).
Seen Your Citizen? is a community-based project dedicated to supporting social participation and inclusion of seniors. This project aims to raise awareness of agism and stereotyping among generations.
To mark the 10th World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the Government of Canada is proud to recognize the work being done here and around the world to raise awareness of elder abuse and help seniors protect themselves from its many forms.
The Government of Canada continues to address elder abuse by supporting a range of measures that help protect seniors from all forms of abuse. The New Horizons for Seniors Program seeks to expand awareness of elder abuse by funding community-based projects.
Through a new NHSP call for proposals for pan-Canadian projects the Government also aims to reduce the social isolation of seniors, which may impact up to 30 percent of Canadian seniors. Social isolation can increase vulnerability and put Canadian seniors at risk of elder abuse.
- June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. It was first launched by the World Health Organization and the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse in 2006 to bring attention to the abuse and neglect that some older adults experience and how abuse can be prevented. World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was officially recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2011.
- The annual NHSP Call for Proposals for Community-Based Projects is open until July 10, 2015. Through the call, organizations are being invited to apply for funding of up to $25,000 for projects that help empower seniors to share their knowledge, skills and experiences with others and support communities by increasing their capacity to address local issues.
- The NHSP Call for Proposals for Pan-Canadian Projects is also open until July 10, 2015. Pan Canadian projects that receive funding will focus on addressing social isolation among seniors in Canada.
- Since 2006, the NHSP has funded nearly 15,000 projects in hundreds of communities across Canada, representing a total Government of Canada investment of $350 million.
- Since 2006, $2.8 billion in annual tax relief has been provided to seniors and pensioners.
- For a wide range of information for seniors, including details on elder abuse awareness, please visit Canada.ca/Seniors.
- The Government of Canada released the Government of Canada – Action for Seniors report in September 2014. The report is a new information resource highlighting federal programs and services that can be accessed by seniors, their families and caregivers. It was created in collaboration with more than 22 federal departments and agencies. The report can be found on Canada.ca/Seniors.
- Today’s announcement is one example of what the Government is doing to improve Canadians’ lives. To help families prosper, the Government is also enhancing the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB), introducing the Family Tax Cut and making improvements to the Child Care Expenses Deduction and the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit.
- The UCCB would increase to up to $1,920 per year for children under the age of 6, and parents would receive a benefit of up to $720 per year for each child aged 6 through 17.
- The proposed enhancements to the UCCB would provide $160 per month for each child under the age of 6 and $60 per month for each child aged 6 through 17.
“The Government of Canada is committed to protecting seniors from elder abuse in all its forms. Eye-opening and perspective-changing activities conducted by organizations such as the HelpAge Canada will help foster a revitalized appreciation of the important role seniors play in our communities and a renewed respect for what they have achieved.”
– The Honourable Alice Wong, Minister of State (Seniors)
“Everywhere across Canada the message is the same: Social isolation of seniors is becoming a deep concern. It renders seniors more vulnerable. HelpAge Canada is dedicated to addressing it. We are pleased to have received support from the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program for the Seen Your Citizen? project that fights agism and helps seniors share their life experience.”
– Jacques Bertrand, Director General, HelpAge Canada
The following is a transcript:
Mr. Ray Boughen (Palliser, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, seniors across our country have expressed concerns about elder abuse, financial abuse and fraud. Our government has a record to be proud of when it comes to protecting seniors and supporting elder abuse awareness.
Could the Minister of State for Seniors please update the House on her work to combat elder abuse?
Hon. Alice Wong (Minister of State (Seniors), CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to mark in the House today the 10th anniversary of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
This government has a strong record of standing up for seniors. It was our government that introduced the Victims Bill of Rights Act and the Protecting Canada’s Seniors Act to protect victims of elder abuse.
Earlier, I was at an announcement that would help to raise the awareness of ageism in Ottawa, one of the many new horizons for seniors program projects.
I am proud of the government’s work in fighting against elder abuse.
Government of Canada highlights ongoing commitment to care for families and seniors at the Families in Canada Conference 2015
June 11, 2015– Ottawa, Ontario – Employment and Social Development Canada
Today, the Honourable Alice Wong, Minister of State (Seniors), highlighted the Government of Canada’s work to tackle issues facing Canadians caring for family members, including seniors, at the Families in Canada Conference 2015. The conference, hosted by the Vanier Institute of the Family, is an important opportunity to converse with leaders from diverse professions, disciplines and backgrounds, all of whom bring their unique perspectives to discuss the issues and experiences faced by families today.
In her remarks, Minister Wong highlighted the measures the Government has taken to address the challenges that Canadians face in providing care for children, family members with disabilities or serious illnesses and injuries, and seniors, including those at end of life. Minister Wong highlighted the Canadian Employers for Caregivers Plan as well as the report released by the Employer Panel for Caregivers earlier this year. The report illustrates best practices for employers to help their employees balance work and caregiving responsibilities.
Minister Wong also spoke about the recent launch of two calls for proposals for the New Horizons for Seniors Program. These calls provide opportunities for organizations to run projects that could address issues of care related to the social isolation of seniors.
The Government has proposed additional measures to help make life more affordable for Canadian families. The new measures include enhancing the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB), introducing the Family Tax Cut and making improvements to the Child Care Expenses Deduction and the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit. Under the proposed enhancements to the UCCB, families would receive $160 per month (up to $1,920 per year) for each child under the age of 6, and $60 per month (up to $720 per year) for each child aged 6 through 17.
- The Government of Canada recognizes the important role of unpaid family caregivers and offers them a variety of supports, including the Family Caregiver Tax Credit, Employment Insurance compassionate care benefits, the Canadian Employers for Caregivers Plan and an Information for Caregivers portal on Canada.ca/Seniors.
- There are currently 6.1 million employed Canadians, or 35 percent of our workforce, providing care to a family member or friend with a long-term health condition, a physical or mental disability, or problems related to aging.
- Economic Action Plan 2015 proposes to provide an additional $37 million annually to extend Employment Insurance compassionate care benefits from six weeks to six months, which may be taken within an expanded period of 52 weeks (one year). This measure will come into effect on January 3, 2016.
“I would like to congratulate the Vanier Institute of the Family on hosting the Families in Canada Conference 2015 during their 50th anniversary year. It is with opportunities like these that we can come together to share our knowledge and experience in our efforts to better meet the needs of Canadian families.”
– The Honourable Alice Wong, Minister of State (Seniors)
Speech by the Honourable Alice Wong, Minister of State (Seniors), on the Launch of the New Horizons for Seniors Program Calls for Proposals for Community-Based Projects and Pan-Canadian Projects
Toronto, Ontario, May 29, 2015
Thank you for that kind introduction, Mr. Kwan, and for hosting us today.
I am delighted to be here today at the Mon Sheong Foundation’s Home for the Aged for this very exciting launch.
Today we are launching two calls for proposals for the New Horizons for Seniors Program.
First, I am pleased to announce the launch of the annual Community-Based call for proposals. As in years past, organizations will have the opportunity to receive $25,000 in funding for community-based projects that run no longer than one year in duration.
The Community-Based stream of the New Horizons for Seniors Program has been incredibly effective at serving and supporting the well-being of seniors across the country for many years. I was delighted to announce approximately 1,850 new projects once again in 2014, bringing the total number of New Horizons community-based projects across Canada to nearly 15,000 since the program began.
I look forward to many new projects inspired by and led by seniors again this year and would encourage you to take a look at my website, Canada.ca/Seniors, right away for more information.
Today also marks the launch of the Pan-Canadian call for proposals for the New Horizons for Seniors Program. And I would like to take a few minutes to share with you about how we came to develop this year’s theme, and the larger vision for the Pan-Canadian stream.
Last year the National Seniors Council released its report entitled “Report on the Social Isolation of Seniors.” This report was particularly significant in bringing to light the issue of social isolation among Canada’s seniors.
Social isolation can be defined as “a low quantity and quality of contact with others.” Social isolation involves few social contacts and few social roles, as well as the absence of mutually rewarding relationships.
Socially isolated seniors are more likely to be at risk of harms such as elder abuse, including financial abuse, and mental health challenges such as depression, loneliness and addiction. Socially isolated seniors are more vulnerable to elder abuse, which includes things like neglect. Social isolation is also correlated with the earlier onset of dementia and other mental wellness issues.
The Council’s report identified a number of measures required to help reduce the social isolation of seniors. These include public awareness, the promotion and improved accessibility of information, services and programs for seniors, and continued research into this complex issue.
And a final recommendation from the Council’s 2014 report was for government to assist with the collective capacity-building of organizations to address the social isolation of seniors.
This report, and the recommendations provided, have in turn led us to consider how the New Horizons for Seniors Program might support the work of a wide variety of organizations and entities in an attempt to address this issue. And this is what brings us here today.
I am pleased to announce that the new theme for the Pan‑Canadian New Horizons for Seniors Program is social isolation.
Over the next five years, the Pan-Canadian stream of the New Horizons program will focus on reducing the social isolation of seniors, not in theory, but in the real lives of Canadian seniors in communities across Canada.
Organizations will be eligible to receive between $150,000 and $750,000 for projects two to three years in length. Our focus will be on collaborative approaches and measurable results. Successful applicants must demonstrate an ability to plan and work collaboratively with other organizations in a particular region or community.
The Government will also be partnering with the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, and their Innoweave Initiative, to assist in achieving these goals.
The work of McConnell, and Innoweave, will be focused upon fostering collaboration among successful applicants in a particular community and region with a view to enhancing the effectiveness and impact of their collective efforts. They will work in conjunction with officials at Employment and Social Development Canada.
Collaboration and innovation are at the very core of what we are aiming for. It takes all members of a community to tackle such a complex social issue, and we recognize the important role of community organizations, municipalities, academic institutions, foundations—like the one we are at today—and other seniors-serving entities in identifying innovative solutions needed to reduce the social isolation of seniors across Canada.
I would encourage these organizations and entities to consider how they may connect with one another with the goal of generating collaborative, innovative solutions to help reduce the social isolation of seniors.
Officials at ESDC and McConnell’s Innoweave initiative will be available to answer questions about the application process. We’re doing things differently this year, so please take advantage of the opportunity to call either ESDC or Innoweave to ask any questions you might have. Contact information for both are listed on my website, Canada.ca/Seniors, along with all the new application information for this year’s call.
I am delighted that these two calls for proposals are now both officially open. And I should note, both calls will be open until July 10, 2015, providing organizations with six weeks to submit their applications.
Friends, this year we are trying something new:
- we are building upon the foundational and ongoing work of the National Seniors Council;
- we are focusing the Pan-Canadian New Horizons stream on a single issue;
- we are requiring applicants to work collaboratively with each other and with us towards measurable objectives; and
- we are focusing our efforts on community and regionally based collaboration.
It is hoped that this alignment and focusing of our efforts will result in a much greater impact for the Pan-Canadian NHSP program, and specifically that tangible progress at addressing the issue of social isolation will be demonstrated.
10th Annual NICE Knowledge Exchange
May 28, 2015
Thank you for that kind introduction.
It is an honour to be here with you again this year. And to share the same podium with such an impressive group of experts in the field of aging.
I would like to acknowledge my provincial counterpart who also joins us today, the Honourable Mario Sergio.
I would also like to congratulate NICE on hosting its 10th Knowledge Exchange.
I wanted to take the opportunity today to talk briefly about some of the things that I have learned over the past 4 years as the Minister of State for Seniors. It has been a lesson for me in the importance of collaboration and working together.
First, information; it is critical.
Very early on we heard from Canadians that many citizens are confused about what the different levels of government do, and are struggling to access needed, basic information.
In response, we developed the Information for Seniors and Information for Caregiver web portals which are located at Canada.ca/Seniors.
Using an interactive map of Canada, these two web portals provide links directly to federal, provincial and municipal programs and services.
This was done collaboratively with my colleagues, the Provincial and Territorial Ministers responsible for Seniors in 2012, who I have had the pleasure of meeting with on four occasions over the past 4 years.
Canada.ca/Seniors also provides links to the United Way’s excellent 211 information service in those provinces where it is currently available. 211 is an information referral service available online or via telephone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in over 100 languages, and provides information to citizens from all levels of government as well as a variety of community organizations. I highly recommend this excellent resource.
In 2014, I was pleased to appoint Professor Andrew Wister as Chair of the National Seniors Council.
In November of last year, the National Seniors Council released its report entitled “Report on the Social Isolation of Seniors”. This report was particularly significant in bringing to light the issue of social isolation among Canada’s seniors.
Social isolation can be defined as “a low quantity and quality of contact with others”. Social isolation is different than loneliness, which is the subjective perception of a lack of interaction or contact with others. Rather, a situation of social isolation involves few social contacts and few social roles, as well as the absence of mutually rewarding relationships.
The impact of social isolation on seniors is very troubling. Some of the key findings of the report illustrate the unique challenges and risks that social isolation can place upon seniors.
Social isolation can cause a lack of social cohesion and risks the permanent loss of the valuable social contributions that seniors make to their communities.
Socially isolated seniors are more likely to be at risk of harms such as elder abuse, including financial abuse and fraud.
They are also more likely to experience mental health challenges such as depression, social anxiety, loneliness and addictions. Social isolation is correlated to dementia, as well.
On the other hand, it is clear that quality contact with a community or a network of support can have a profound impact on the livelihood, mental and physical health and well-being of seniors as well as the prosperity of local communities.
The report of the National Seniors Council identified a number of measures that may help to reduce the social isolation of seniors. These include public awareness, the promotion and improved accessibility of information, services and programs for seniors, and continued research into this complex issue.
And a final recommendation from the Council’s 2014 report was for the Federal Government to assist with the collective capacity-building of organizations to address the social isolation of seniors with social innovation.
This report has in turn led us to consider how the New Horizons for Seniors Program might support the work of a wide variety of organizations in attempting to address this complex issue.
I am pleased to announce that the new theme for the Pan-Canadian New Horizons for Seniors program is social isolation. The call-for-proposals will be launched tomorrow, together with the call-for-proposals for Community-Based grants. You are most welcome to join me tomorrow at 11:00AM at the Mon Sheong Home for the Aged on D’Arcy Street for the launch.
Over the next 5 years, the Pan-Canadian New Horizons stream will focus upon reducing the social isolation of seniors, not in theory, but in the real lives of seniors in Canadian communities.
Collaboration and innovation are at the core of what we are aiming for. As such, the Government will be partnering with the McConnell Family Foundation of Canada, and their Innoweave initiative to help build partnerships, and spur innovative ideas among organizations that apply.
Successful applicants must demonstrate an ability to plan and work collaboratively with other organizations in a particular region or community.
For information on the application process please visit Canada.ca/Seniors.
Over the past four years I have also found that supporting caregivers is a matter that goes hand-in-hand with supporting seniors.
Last June I launched the Canadian Employer Panel for Caregivers. The panel consisted of representatives from small, medium and large size businesses across the country, including Johnson & Johnson, Ernst & Young and Home Depot.
The annual cost of lost productivity to Canadian employers due to caregiving responsibilities is estimated at $1.3 billion dollars annually.
The Panel found that of the estimated 6 million Canadians that provide unpaid, informal care while working, most were providing care to seniors, and most were themselves over the age of 45.
Many of the same people who provide essential care for seniors are also some of the best and brightest participants in the labour force, often possessing deep company and industry knowledge.
The Panel discovered that while many employers across Canada are aware of caregiving responsibilities among their employee base, few are aware of the magnitude of their caregiving responsibilities.
A danger for the labour force is that some employed caregivers may elect to leave work early to provide care to a loved one, typically an aging parent.
The Panel’s work culminated in the release of an excellent report titled, “When Work and Caregiving Collide – How Employers can Support their Employees who are Caregiving”, in January of this year. The report contains their findings, with practical resources that companies of all sizes can use in assessing the business impact of caregiving and how flexible workplace practices can help them retain their best and brightest talent.
Seniors and Homelessness
I would also like to comment briefly on the issue of seniors and homelessness.
Homelessness among the elderly is troubling, particularly for those with mental illness or impairment, who may be incapable of applying for Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). On the front lines of servicing this community are municipalities and charitable or non-profit organizations.
In January, 2015, the Government announced that municipalities and charitable or non-profit organizations may apply to administer CPP and OAS/GIS benefits on behalf of a senior who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, and who is suffering from some degree of mental impairment or incapability.
Friends, it is a sad irony that these most vulnerable seniors may not have the benefit of the CPP, OAS and GIS benefits to which they are entitled by law – benefits that could make a tremendous difference in their lives.
I sincerely hope that those cities and organizations working on the front lines of outreach and service delivery collaborate with us towards this common objective. We are trying hard to reach out to relevant municipalities and organizations and I would note that we have an information booth today which is devoted largely to this initiative.
Finally, I want to comment briefly on the nature of seniors as an area of public policy analysis.
Seniors policy is inherently interdisciplinary.
Issues affecting Canadian seniors fall within the scope of many federal departments and agencies.
While the Office of the Minister of State is located within Employment and Social Development Canada – part of my job is to work collaboratively with other Federal Cabinet Ministers – most of them in much larger departments – with respect to issues affecting Canada’s seniors.
I have found that to do the work of Seniors Policy, one of the basic requirements is to bring together information and perspectives from across the whole of government relevant to seniors and assess it holistically.
Sometimes this work requires mediating complex relationships that exist within and between these larger departments and agencies across government. This can be a difficult task for public officials working the area of Seniors Policy. Depending on the issue, the relevant expertise and policy authorities may reside in another department altogether. This presents challenges and calls for collaborative approaches to doing the work of Seniors Policy.
Last year we published the Government of Canada: Action for Seniors report. The premise of this report was simple. Gather together, in one document, the various activities of the Federal Government that pertain, in one way or another, to seniors. We are very pleased with the result.
Employment and Social Development Canada chairs an interdepartmental committee which brings together 22 Federal departments and agencies and serves as a focal point for the wide range of disciplines affected by seniors’ issues. It was the work of that table that allowed us to produce the Action for Seniors report.
The Report has been warmly received by Canadians. But – separate from the report itself – I would add that the process of producing the report was helpful for us as it provided a focal point for a comprehensive examination of seniors policy federally.
So, the lesson I learned is that seniors policy is interdisciplinary, comprised of many sources from across government, and that to address seniors issues, effort is required to bring together and assess all of the relevant inputs within government. This is not an easy task, but in my view, it is an essential one.
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share some of these observations with you.
It is always such a pleasure to be here at NICE. I look forward to the rest of the morning. Thank you very much.
Government of Canada highlights ongoing commitment to seniors at the 10th annual NICE Knowledge Exchange Conference
May 28, 2015– Toronto, Ontario – Employment and Social Development Canada
The Honourable Alice Wong, Minister of State (Seniors), today highlighted the Government of Canada’s work to tackle issues facing seniors in Canada at the 10th annual NICE Knowledge Exchange Conference. This conference, hosted by the National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly (NICE), provides an important opportunity for members of the community, clinicians, academics, students and business leaders to come together to exchange ideas, present insights and innovations, and promote concrete solutions to help address seniors’ issues.
In her remarks, Minister Wong highlighted the 2015-2016 New Horizons for Seniors Program (NHSP) Call for Proposals (CFP) for Pan-Canadian projects, which will be launched on May 29, 2015. Through this CFP, organizations will be invited to apply for funding for projects that will help prevent and reduce social isolation among seniors using collaborative, partnership-based approaches and with an emphasis on results.
The annual CFP for community-based projects under the NHSP will be launched on the same day.
Minister Wong also spoke of a number of programs and activities that help support seniors and address the issue of social isolation. These include the publishing of a National Seniors Council’s report on social isolation and the Council’s ongoing work that will include a focus on examining ways to encourage local communities to reach out to socially isolated seniors. The social isolation of seniors is also one of the priorities to be examined this year by the Forum of Federal/Provincial/Territorial Ministers Responsible for Seniors.
Minister Wong also discussed how the Government is providing over $2.8 billion in annual tax relief to seniors and pensioners, implementing pension income splitting and introducing a new Home Accessibility Tax Credit for seniors and persons with disabilities to help with the costs of ensuring their homes remain safe, secure and accessible. These changes to income security programs have given older Canadians more choice and flexibility in regard to life, work and retirement.
To help families prosper, the Government is also enhancing the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB), introducing the Family Tax Cut and making improvements to the Child Care Expenses Deduction and the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit. The UCCB would increase to up to $1,920 per year for children under the age of 6, and parents would receive a benefit of up to $720 per year for each child aged 6 through 17. The proposed enhancements to the UCCB would provide $160 per month for each child under the age of 6 and $60 per month for each child aged 6 through 17.
- The Government of Canada is committed to supporting and promoting seniors’ health, well-being and contributions by encouraging them to stay active, engaged and informed.
- In September, the Government of Canada released the Government of Canada Action for Seniors report, a comprehensive information resource highlighting federal programs and services, which can be accessed by seniors, their families and caregivers at Canada.ca/Seniors.
- Today, 1 in 7 Canadians is aged 65 or over. By 2036, nearly 1 in 4 Canadians will be a senior.
“I would like to congratulate the National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly on their 10th Annual Knowledge Exchange Conference and thank them for inviting me to participate again this year. It is opportunities like these, where such an impressive group of experts in the field of aging come together, that allow us to collaborate, share our knowledge and work together to ensure Canadian seniors are supported and stay active, engaged and informed.”
– The Honourable Alice Wong, Minister of State (Seniors)