Healthy Aging through Healthy Living
“It’s time to change the conversation. If we see seniors as a burden, we only see part of the solution. It’s about the creative energy that new people and fresh thinking can bring when we see everyone, including seniors, as contributing to the way forward.”
This quote by John McLaughlin, UNB’s president emeritus, sums up nicely my feelings about the need to change not only the way we view seniors but also how we move Canada forward with innovative policies that encourage healthy aging through healthy living.
The 2016 census from Statistics Canada released last spring shows the largest increase in the share of seniors in Canada since 1871. The proportion of those 65 and older climbed to 16.9 per cent of Canada’s population, exceeding the share of those 15 years and younger at 16.6 per cent. Within 15 years, almost one-in-four Canadians could be 65 or older.
During our first year in government, we restored the eligibility age for Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement back to 65. We increased the GIS top-up benefit for single seniors by up to $947 per year. We also enhanced the Canada Pension Plan and explored a new seniors price index so that OAS and GIS benefits keep pace with the cost of living.
Budget 2017 further ensures seniors continue to receive the support they deserve by committing $125.1 million to improve home care for seniors in New Brunswick. Over the next 11 years, we will invest $3.2 billion to support affordable housing priorities, including initiatives to support safe, independent living for seniors. The National Housing Strategy is meeting the needs of Canadians, including seniors, Indigenous Peoples, survivors of family violence, people with disabilities, refugees, veterans, and those grappling with homelessness.
“New Brunswick is the ideal place to roll out bold and transformative approaches that will enable healthy living.”
With a population aging even faster than the national average and obesity rates among the highest in Canada, New Brunswick is the ideal place to roll out bold and transformative approaches that will enable healthy living. Though a small province, our communities are representative of those found across the country. We are English and French, indigenous and newcomer, urban and rural, and, most importantly, close and well connected.
I envision our province as a living lab, the proving ground for new, collaborative models of care that can streamline services, ensure appropriate supports and care are in place, and position our province as one of the best jurisdictions in the world for innovations in healthy living. The federal government’s $16.6-million investment in the University of New Brunswick’s Centre for Healthy Living is an excellent example of this.
Located adjacent to the Richard J. Currie Center on the UNB campus, the Centre for Healthy Living is scheduled for completion next spring. With its focus on chronic disease prevention throughout life, the Centre’s research into exercise and healthy lifestyles will add to our knowledge of rehabilitation measures for obesity and diabetes. The Centre will also provide research and teaching space for the faculty of kinesiology, a recognized leader in research and knowledge mobilization in healthy living and health promotion strategies.
Funded by the Government of Canada, the work of the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement (CFHI) shows how innovative approaches are leading to better outcomes for patients and their families. Its success reducing antipsychotic use led to the creation of the New Brunswick Appropriate Use of Antipsychotics (NB-AUA) Collaborative – a joint effort by CFHI, the New Brunswick Association for Nursing Homes, and the New Brunswick government. The goal is to scale the program to the province’s more than 60 long-term care homes by the summer of 2018.
Another example of our region’s enhanced capacity in the field of healthy living is AGE-WELL, Canada’s technology and aging network, which recently partnered with the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation and the York Care Centre to open a National Innovation Hub in Fredericton. AGE-WELL is a federally funded Network of Centres of Excellence that accelerates innovation in the field of technology and aging for the benefit of all Canadians.
Among the most important things I have learned during my two years as an MP, is the remarkable contribution seniors make to our communities and the value of the wisdom they impart. Canada’s seniors are not a burden, they are among our greatest assets, and we have much to learn from them as we find our way forward.