Tête-à-tête with Tassi

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

Monthly column by the Honourable Filomena Tassi

Canada's National Dementia Strategy

August 2019

Chances are that you, or someone close to you, has been or will be touched by dementia. In Canada, more than 419,000 people aged 65 years and older have been diagnosed with dementia. This number is expected to grow as lifespans increase and our population ages.

A diagnosis of dementia is life changing—for the person diagnosed, families, caregivers and communities. Dementia can affect a person's memory, relationships and independence. Understanding the impacts of dementia and knowing how best to improve the quality of life of people living with dementia and their caregivers is essential.

That's why the Government of Canada is working on multiple fronts to ensure that seniors living with dementia and their caregivers are valued, supported and experience the best quality of life possible. We're also dedicated to ensuring that dementia is prevented, effectively treated and better understood. Most recently, to further these priorities, we worked collaboratively with people living with dementia, caregivers, advocacy groups, health professionals, researchers and representatives from provincial and territorial governments to develop Canada's first national dementia strategy. A Dementia Strategy for Canada: Together We Aspire sets out three national objectives: prevent dementia, advance therapies and find a cure, and improve the quality of life of people living with dementia and their caregivers.

The work of implementing the strategy will complement existing work in the provinces and territories. Budget 2019 announced funding of $50 million over five years to help increase awareness about dementia and prevention; reduce stigma; support dementia-inclusive communities; develop and disseminate guidelines and best practices; and better understand the impact of dementia through enhanced monitoring.

To further research on dementia in Canada, $32 million over five years was announced in June 2019 to support the second phase of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging. This is in addition to ongoing funding of $4 million per year for the Dementia Community Investment to support community-based projects that address the challenges of dementia and optimize the well-being of people living with dementia and their caregivers.

Helping all Canadian seniors lead healthy, independent and active lives is a top priority for the government. We will continue to place a strong and distinct focus on their health and wellbeing, so that seniors, including those living with dementia as well as their caregivers, can live as fully as possible, with dignity and respect.

The Honourable Filomena Tassi, Minister of Seniors

Indigenous seniors

July 2019

Every June, we celebrate National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day. During June, Canadians across the country took time to reflect on the rich histories, traditions and significant contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

As Minister of Seniors, I work to ensure seniors' perspectives and experiences are included in our community life, so as we celebrated, I also reflected on the fundamental role that Indigenous seniors play in strengthening Indigenous communities.

For many Indigenous communities, maintaining a connection to traditional lands, foods, spirituality, medicine, activities as well as language is essential to the health and well-being of their people.

Many First Nations, Inuit and Métis seniors, as well as Indigenous elders more specifically, want to age in place, they want to stay in their communities with the health and social supports they need to live safely, independently and in dignity.

Since many Indigenous people live in remote communities with less access to health care services available in larger cities, seniors may have to leave their communities to receive health care. This affects Indigenous communities because the seniors' rich knowledge about the land, culture and tradition is so integral to their communities.

Indigenous elders contribute so much to their communities through their rich knowledge about the land, culture and traditions—we want to ensure they can continue to play a key role. That is why we are recognizing the importance of Indigenous elders in their communities; by making investments that will help them stay in their communities.

The Government of Canada is committed to making our communities more accessible and ensuring that aging in place is a viable option for all Indigenous seniors—and all seniors in Canada. That is why in Budget 2019, we made a 35-million-dollar investment to support First Nations seniors and persons with disabilities living on reserve. This means they will be able to better maintain their independence and stay close to their families. We also invested 8.5 million dollars to engage with First Nations and Inuit communities on the development of a long-term care strategy.

Finally, I am so pleased to share with readers that, after so much hard work, on June 21, 2019, the Accessible Canada Act became law. This legislation will enforce accessibility in areas under federal jurisdiction by identifying, preventing and removing the barriers that hinder full and equal participation in society of persons with disabilities.

We know that seniors from all walks of life can experience disabilities and encounter barriers, so the measures included in this Act will help ensure that no matter where they live, seniors can continue to enjoy social and civic participation in a barrier-free Canada.

I am so excited for us to continue our work towards a more inclusive Canada.

The Honourable Filomena Tassi, Minister of Seniors

June is Elder Abuse Awareness month

June 2019

June is Elder Abuse Awareness month, a time when we raise awareness about abuse affecting seniors across Canada and around the world. Unfortunately, seniors, from all walks of life, can be particularly vulnerable to abuse whether it is physical, psychological or financial.

Abuse against seniors is unacceptable, and can happen to anyone, in any relationship, which is why I want to encourage seniors and their families to get informed and be vigilant about any signs of elder abuse.

Some ways to recognize elder abuse so you can help prevent it:

Learn the red flags! Things like unexplained physical injuries, improper use of medication, a sudden drop in cash flow, confusion about new legal documents, dehydration, poor nutrition or hygiene are all indicators of possible abuse.

Suspicious? Say something! Photograph injuries, report any odd behaviour or incidents to authorities, and talk to your friends and family to spread awareness.

You're not alone: Preventing elder abuse is for everyone!

The Government of Canada is also working to put an end to financial abuse. Last year, we introduced legislative provisions to advance the rights of bank customers, for stronger banking protections. We also launched a public inquiry into misleading, high-pressure sales tactics often used by telecom providers and now we’re moving towards an evidence-based solution to aggressive and misleading sales practices.

What’s more, Budget 2019 proposed to invest an additional $100 million, over five years, in the New Horizons for Seniors Program. One of the Program’s priorities is to ensure seniors and their families learn about abuse, so they can prevent it, or put a stop to it if it does occur. Further, the Family Violence Initiative promotes public awareness of the risk factors of family violence and the need for public involvement in responding to it.

As our society ages, it is increasingly important to address elder abuse in our communities.

Together, we can help reduce and prevent elder abuse.

The Honourable Filomena Tassi, Minister of Seniors

Spring into action

May 2019

Research shows that daily physical activity can reduce the risk of chronic disease or disability and can help maintain mobility. Of course, getting and staying active benefits more than just your body, it affects your whole life by helping you stay independent and engaged in the community, boosting your confidence and improving your mental health.

That’s why the Government of Canada continues to encourage Canadians of all ages to get active. The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that adults, including seniors, participate in at least 2.5 hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week. Now that the weather is warming up, it is easier to get out for a walk, visit a community park or try a new activity with a friend.

If you are not yet in the habit of being active or are looking for ideas about how to get active, there are resources out there to help. In Budget 2019, we proposed to promote the inclusion and full participation of seniors by increasing funding to the New Horizons for Seniors Program, which fosters seniors’ health and well-being in communities across the country. So get involved and find a program near you.

It’s not just activity that keeps you healthy, eating a variety of healthy food every day will go a long way to maintaining your well-being. That’s why the Government of Canada recently revamped Canada’s Food Guide, a new, simplified approach to healthy eating. Check it out to learn more about how drinking more water and eating more vegetables, fruit, whole grains and plant-based proteins can have positive effects on your health.

As Minister of Seniors, I am committed to promoting healthy, active aging to ensure that Canadian seniors can get the most out of life and continue to make valuable contributions to society.

All of the work we are doing to improve seniors’ income security and engagement with their communities has one goal: to help Canadian seniors enjoy a dignified, secure and active retirement.

Spring has sprung! Let’s get out there and enjoy it!

The Honourable Filomena Tassi, Minister of Seniors

Put money back in your pocket this tax season

April 2019

Tax season is upon us again! If you're a senior, you may be eligible for benefits and credits that will help put money back in your pocket.

As Minister of Seniors, I want to make sure that Canadian seniors are aware of all the advantages the Government of Canada has made available to them. Below I'm sharing some of the tax benefits we've established to help trim your tax bill.

Split and save: You may be able to take advantage of pension splitting to help even your tax. You can split up to 50% of your eligible pension income with your spouse or common-law partner.

Age amount: You've earned it! You may be able to claim up to $7,333 on your return if you were 65 or older on December 31, 2018, and if your net income was less than $85,863.

Max out your medical deductions: Hang onto your medical receipts, you may be able to claim eligible medical expenses you or your spouse paid in the last tax year.

There are many more benefits and tax credits that you may qualify for that can help boost your cash flow, like the Canada caregiver credit and the disability tax credit. Find out more about these and other taxable benefits for seniors.

Another great way to help reduce your tax owing is to make contributions to your RRSP, you can do this until the end of the year you turn 71. You can also make contributions to a TFSA with tax free withdrawals and no age restrictions.

It's also easier to make sure you get your Old Age Security (OAS) pension and the nontaxable Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) for low income seniors, many Canadian seniors are now eligible for automatic enrollment! We'll use the income information from your income tax and benefit return and review your eligibility for the GIS automatically every year.

Finally, I know that preparing taxes can be overwhelming, but help is out there. Filling out your tax return helps you get the most out of assistance the government provides.

To make sure you don't miss out on any of the money you are entitled to, look for community volunteers who may be able to do your taxes for you. Find a free tax clinic near you.

All this tax relief can really add up, so take advantage of all the opportunities and benefits you are entitled to this tax season!

The Honourable Filomena Tassi, Minister of Seniors

Fraud Prevention Month 2019

March 2019

As Minister of Seniors, I wish to take time to thank seniors for the valuable contributions they have made and continue to make in our communities, workplaces and families. I am dedicated to making sure Canada is well prepared to respond to seniors’ unique needs and that opportunities for all seniors are promoted. I’m excited to have this opportunity to update you on some of the initiatives the Government of Canada is undertaking to improve all aspects of quality of life for Canadian seniors. I hope this column will be the first of many, so stay tuned!

March is Fraud Prevention Month, so I’m taking advantage of the occasion to highlight the Government of Canada’s work to help Canadians, and especially seniors, recognize, reject and report fraud.

Fraudulent schemes, like telecom, financial and email scams, target people of all backgrounds, ages and income levels. I’m working to ensure the right measures are in place so seniors, like all Canadians, are protected against fraud.

The Government of Canada supports initiatives that help protect Canadian seniors from fraudsters, like the Fraud Prevention Forum, a group of more than 100 organizations combating fraud. We are also collecting information about fraud to ensure that our education and awareness measures are adapted to the most advanced schemes developed by scammers.

Complementing our work on fraud, I recently participated in a roundtable to kick-start work on a code of conduct for banks that would improve services for seniors, and all Canadians. Last year, the government introduced legislative provisions to advance the rights of bank consumers, so everyone can benefit from stronger banking protections.

Further, we’re supporting initiatives that help Canadians, including seniors, use digital technology and the Internet safely, securely and effectively. We’ve also launched a public inquiry into misleading, high-pressure sales tactics often used by telecom providers and I am looking forward to the resulting report to be submitted in the coming months.

Remember, fraud can happen to anyone. You can protect yourself and others by learning to recognize it, reporting it and getting help if you or someone you know has been affected by fraud. To access resources on how to prevent fraud, visit Canada.ca/seniors, or call 1 800 O-Canada. If you think you’ve been targeted by fraudsters, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre or call 1-888-495-8501.

The Honourable Filomena Tassi, Minister of Seniors

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