Report of the National Seniors Council on Elder Abuse
Chair, National Seniors Council
The National Seniors Council was established in March 2007. At the inaugural meeting of the Council in May 2007 in Ottawa, the Secretary of State (Seniors) identified two initial priorities: to develop ways to raise awareness of elder abuse and combat this issue; and to better understand the factors that lead to pockets of low-income seniors among unattached seniors, particularly women. In its mandated role of providing advice to the Government of Canada, the National Seniors Council is pleased to provide a report on the first priority and an update on its work toward the second priority.
This fall, the National Seniors Council held regional meetings with a total of 50 experts and stakeholders, to discuss the nature and extent of elder abuse in Canada. The feedback from participants was very positive; they welcomed the meetings and expressed strong support for continued dialogue on elder abuse.
The level of participation and interest demonstrated were a testimony to the commitment of individuals and their organizations to combat elder abuse and improve the quality of life of seniors living in all regions of Canada. It was equally evident that participants’ work incorporates the respect for seniors that is so richly deserved. More importantly, it sent a strong message to the National Seniors Council that elder abuse is a serious social problem and that further action by governments is required.
With this report, the National Seniors Council offers practical advice to the federal government to address elder abuse. This advice will take advantage of existing networks, capacity, expertise and commitment across the country.
The National Seniors Council wishes to thank all participants, many of whom volunteer their time and expertise to the issue of elder abuse, for agreeing to share their views with us.
The National Seniors Council began examining the issue of low-income seniors through a review of income, wealth and expenditure patterns, as well as through a review of public pensions, programs and policies. This diagnostic work revealed the following conclusions:
- Since 1980, the proportion of seniors living in low income has declined sharply (from 21.3 percent in 1980 to 6.1 percent in 2004), due in part to Canada’s public pensions, which include a Guaranteed Income Supplement for low-income seniors.
- Given that more and more women have entered the labour force, improvements are likely to continue into the future for this category of seniors.
- A relatively small group of seniors living in low income remains. Whether men or women, unattached seniors who have a poor work history (and therefore little workplace pension wealth or personal savings) are at a much higher risk of experiencing low income in old age.
- Provinces and territories provide assistance to low-income seniors through income supplements and programs and services that help reduce their expenditures.
The National Seniors Council will consider the kind of work that might be needed in the future in this area, bearing in mind jurisdictional considerations.
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