Se­niors voices must be heard

The Niagara Falls Review - - NEWS - DOU­GLAS RAPELJE

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 age­friendly 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

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