Report of the National Seniors Council on Low Income Among Seniors

Roundtables on Seniors’ Well-Being

Between February and May 2008, the National Seniors Council held 11 roundtables with 100 local and regional service providers, voluntary and non-governmental organizations and seniors’ groups in communities across the country.Footnote 10

Map of Canada indicating the locations of the 11 National Seniors Council roundtables on Seniors’ Well-Being. Text description follows.
Text description: Map of Canada indicating the locations of the 11 National Seniors Council roundtables on Seniors’ Well-Being

The Roundtables were held in Whitehorse, Yukon; Nanaimo, British Columbia; Vernon, British Columbia; Maple Ridge, British Columbia; Calgary, Alberta; Regina, Saskatchewan; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Peterborough, Ontario; Québec City, Quebec; Woodstock, New Brunswick and St. John’s, Newfoundland.

The roundtables had three objectives:

  1. to enable the National Seniors Council to learn more about the experiences of seniors living on low incomes and understand the challenges they face;
  2. to gauge the level of awareness among seniors about federal benefits and other programs and services available to them; and
  3. to identify issues of importance to seniors in their communities to help the National Seniors Council stay abreast of current and emerging issues.

For the purposes of the discussions, “low-income” seniors were considered to be individuals with income levels below Statistics Canada’s after-tax LICO. The discussions surrounding “emerging issues” are not included in this report, but will help the Council determine future priorities.

What participants told us

Each location had a unique perspective of the challenges facing low-income seniors in their communities. However, the following five themes consistently emerged:

  1. Income
  2. Housing
  3. Transportation
  4. Health
  5. Awareness and Delivery of Services and Benefits

While participants recognized that the unattached, women, recent immigrants and Aboriginal peoples were among those more vulnerable to living in low income, they focused discussions on the challenges facing low-income seniors in their communities generally.

Participants also noted that these challenges are interrelated. For example, a low-income senior who cannot afford transportation may also become socially isolated, which may in turn jeopardize personal health.

Many of the challenges identified by participants fall under provincial, territorial or municipal jurisdiction. For instance, although the federal government provides funding for housing, the provinces and territories are responsible for the administration and delivery of housing programs. Participants emphasized that all levels of government, as well as the private and non-profit sectors, must work together in order to address these challenges successfully.

The following section highlights the key challenges noted by participants and presents the Council’s suggestions for federal government action on each theme.

Income

Key challenges

Rising cost of living: Despite public pension benefits, many low-income seniors find it hard to make ends meet. Some seniors on fixed incomes believe they are “one catastrophe away” from low income.

Trade-offs: The rising cost of food and energy force some low-income seniors to cut back on basic necessities. Some rely on Meals on Wheels, community centres or food banks for nourishing meals. Others find it too expensive to heat their homes properly in the winter. Seniors in some communities spend the day in local malls to stay warm. Food and fuel costs seem most acute in isolated areas where prices are typically higher.

Lack of coordination of services and benefits: Services and benefits that assist lowincome seniors are not well coordinated between levels of government. Eligibility criteria for these benefits are often based on income and, consequently, some program benefits are reduced for each dollar earned over a prescribed amount. For instance, when the federal government increases its financial support to seniors, the income eligibility thresholds for provincial and territorial programs may not always be adjusted. The end result is that seniors in some jurisdictions may not see real increases in their incomes or they may lose benefits for which they were once eligible.

Pre-retirement planning: Pre-retirement planning is essential to promote financial security in old age. A Peterborough participant, for example, relied on a pre-retirement course provided by his employer to become aware of potential benefits and to plan adequately for his retirement. A newly retired woman in Regina had no idea what retirement would be like and was concerned about her future. Another participant, in his late 50s, is only now thinking about life on a pension.

Promising Practices
Through a joint initiative, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada and the British Columbia Securities Commission (BCSC), have developed a comprehensive, Webbased tool to help young Canadians acquire strong financial life skills. This new tool is modelled on the BCSC’s teaching resource The City: Financial Life Skills for Planning 10, currently used in high schools throughout British Columbia. Since introducing the resource in November 2004, BCSC has delivered copies to more than 1,400 teachers in all 60 British Columbia school districts.

The benefits of early planning: Financial planning and understanding the importance of future financial security must start before people enter the workforce. The Council is encouraged by projects to educate young people about retirement planning. A school project in Newfoundland and Labrador called The Canada Pension Plan: What’s it got to do with me? informs high school students about CPP benefits, retirement planning, public pensions and social responsibility. The project was so successful it will be part of a compulsory province-wide Grade 11 financial management class during 2008–09. These types of initiatives will help prepare future generations of seniors for retirement.

Suggestions for action

The Council identified the following suggestions for federal government consideration based on participants’ comments:

  • Rising cost of living
    • Examine all elements of federal pension benefits, such as the GIS earnings exemption, to ensure that they are fully indexed to inflation. The earnings exemption allows GIS recipients who choose to work to keep the first $3,500 without having their benefits reduced. The amount of the exemption is fixed, however, and will lose value over time as wages and prices rise.
  • Trade-offs
    • Implement an energy cost benefit for low-income seniors, modeled on the federal Energy Cost Benefit of 2006, to help offset increasing energy costs.
  • Lack of coordination of services and benefits
    • Conduct an analysis of existing federal, provincial and territorial programs and services available to seniors to better understand how changes in an individual’s income may have an impact on the receipt of benefits and services; and work with provinces and territories to better coordinate programs and services.
  • Pre-retirement planning
    • Continue to help increase the financial literacy of Canadians by promoting existing information and educational tools, such as the 2001 Human Resources Development Canada publication Canada’s Retirement Income System: What’s In It For You? and the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s online resource www.themoneybelt.gc.ca; and work with the public and private sectors to develop new materials tailored to seniors.
  • The benefits of early planning
    • Develop partnerships to incorporate initiatives such as the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s The CityFootnote 11 and The Canada Pension Plan: What’s it got to do with me? program into high schools, to help educate young Canadians about responsible money management, financial planning, pensions and retirement.

Housing

Key challenges

Tax relief: Rising home values and increasing property taxes have placed a growing strain on senior homeowners. While some provinces, territories and municipalities provide property tax relief to low-income seniors, the eligibility requirements and availability of these programs varies across the country.

Safe, affordable and appropriate housing: High demand for housing has also resulted in significant rental increases in some communities. The demand for subsidized housing options outweighs the current supply. In some communities, newly built affordable housing units were fully occupied before construction had even finished. Meanwhile, it can take years to be placed in subsidized housing. Even then, some seniors turn down placements due to safety concerns in some neighbourhoods. As a result, some are at “risk of “couch surfing”—moving from the home of one family member to another for short periods.

Home adaptations and supportive living: Most seniors prefer to stay in their homes and communities as long as possible. However, this “aging in place” is jeopardized when seniors cannot afford to renovate or adapt their houses to meet changing health needs. In one case, an individual living in a mobile home had to crawl into the bedroom because his wheelchair would not pass through the door. His mental and physical health deteriorated until a local organization obtained funding for alterations to his home through the Home Adaptations for Seniors’ Independence program of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). This small renovation allowed him easier access to his bedroom and improved his health and quality of life.

Effective Programming
Funded by the federal government, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s Home Adaptations for Seniors Independence (HASI) program helps low-income seniors pay for minor home modifications such as handrails, grab bars and lever handles on doors. These adaptations extend the time seniors can live independently in their homes. Over the past 10 years, more than 25,000 senior households have been assisted through the HASI program.

Home maintenance: Many seniors struggle to take care of their homes and need to pay for help with basic chores that are too physically demanding. Community-based organizations that provide help with home maintenance often have long wait lists. With timely and affordable help around the house, seniors would be better able to retain their independence and reduce the chances of accidents and falls, thus also reducing healthcare system costs.

Suggestions for action

The Council identified the following suggestions for federal government consideration based on participants’ comments:

  • Safe, affordable and appropriate housing
    • Continue to invest in supplying affordable housing through the federal Affordable Housing Initiative.
    • Build on the work of the Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) Age Friendly Communities Initiative to ensure that policies, programs and services meet the evolving needs of seniors. PHAC could work in collaboration with other government departments to examine how existing programs and initiatives could be used to assist communities in becoming more age friendly.
  • Home adaptations and supportive living
    • Continue to fund and promote awareness of CMHC’s Home Adaptations for Seniors Independence program and the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance program.
  • Home maintenance
    • Examine the implementation of a seniors independence program that would provide low-income seniors with an annual supplement to assist them in accessing grounds maintenance, housekeeping and transportation services.

Transportation

Key challenges

Costs: While some seniors stop driving for health reasons, others do so because they can no longer afford to insure or maintain their automobiles. Participants noted that few programs exist to help with these costs. The lack of affordable and accessible public transportation and the costs of taxi services, insurance and gasoline hinder low-income seniors from accessing services, attending appointments, socializing or participating in their communities.

Access to transportation programs: Winter weather conditions prevent many seniors from using local public transit, buses do not operate regularly outside of peak hours, and posted bus schedules are often hard to read. Local transit for seniors with disabilities is valuable, but the routes and hours of operation are often limited and seniors must book the service a day in advance to use it.

Innovative Approaches
The Transportation Project, organized by the Seniors Transportation Working Group in Manitoba, has developed a network of stakeholders to create an inventory of transportation resources available to seniors; integrate and coordinate local transportation options; identify a province-wide approach to deliver a transportation program for individuals with mobility limitations; and support efforts to provide seniors in rural Manitoba communities with affordable transportation options. In the United States, the ITNAmerica program provides low-cost rides in private cars to seniors through a combination of paid and volunteer drivers, organized through a centralized network.

Rural and isolated communities: The problems associated with the limited availability of transportation are especially acute in rural areas. Seniors in some rural and remote areas travel outside of their communities to receive specialized medical care.

Lack of volunteer drivers: Lack of access to reliable and affordable transportation affects overall quality of life. Given few transportation options, some seniors remain isolated for long periods; this has a negative effect on their physical and mental health. Several community groups provide seniors with rides to appointments or social outings. While these types of programs are invaluable, many drivers are becoming reluctant to volunteer this service due to rising fuel prices and concerns related to insurance and liability.

Suggestions for action

The Council identified the following suggestions for federal government consideration based on participants’ comments:

  • Costs and access to transportation programs
    • Conduct an analysis of existing transportation programs and resources available for seniors to identify barriers to service use and gaps in service delivery, increase awareness of services and identify promising best practices.
    • Conduct a review of innovative transportation programs for seniors and people with reduced mobility, such as the Transportation Project and the ITNAmerica program, and consider their applicability for pilot projects in other jurisdictions.
  • Lack of volunteer drivers
    • Examine options to provide financial support to individuals or community groups that provide seniors with rides to appointments, to help offset some of the costs of fuel and insurance.

Health

Key challenges

Access to information: Greater information and support would help to ensure that seniors could age in good health.

Drug coverage and health supplies: Some seniors are rationing their medications to make prescriptions last longer. Many seniors are unaware of their entitlements and the range of drugs covered in provincial/territorial drug programs, which do not cover all medication. Without coverage for supplementary health supplies and services, many low-income seniors cannot afford to pay for services such as eye care, dentistry or physiotherapy. Lack of access to these vital services diminishes the quality of life of many seniors.

Home and unpaid care: Provincial/territorial home care programs are essential in allowing seniors to “age in place,” since many low-income seniors cannot afford private care. Although home care provides a valuable service, family members provide most of the help to seniors at home with health-related care needs. In addition, many caregivers are seniors themselves who provide care to friends, spouses and sometimes grandchildren. Respite care, when available, is not always affordable. These types of services are important for family caregivers, allowing them to care for themselves so they can continue to care for their loved ones.

Reaching Out
The Victorian Order of Nurses Functional Fitness Continuum Project, supported by the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Guelph–Wellington Seniors Association and the Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging, provides volunteers with training to teach seniors specially designed exercises that they can do in their own homes. By providing in-home, age-appropriate exercises, it is hoped that the obstacles to remaining physically active that are faced by frail or socially isolated seniors will be reduced, and overall health and well-being will be improved. At the completion of this project there will be Functional Fitness Continuum programs established in six communities across Canada.

Physical activity: It is never too late to get exercise. At age 65, one roundtable participant decided he needed to improve his health, so he changed his lifestyle and went on to complete a half marathon. Good health, however, is only achieved when people can make informed choices. More promotion of healthy eating and physical activity among seniors is needed.

User fees: Even nominal user fees can prohibit seniors from taking part in activities that promote health. In one community, eliminating a seniors’ rate for an exercise facility led to a drop in seniors’ participation. Some organizations have subsidies, but cannot afford to waive all fees without affecting other programs and services.

Suggestions for action

The Council identified the following suggestions for federal government consideration based on participants’ comments:

  • Access to information
    • Ensure that health-related brochures, pamphlets and other informational tools are readable and accessible for seniors and care providers, including recent immigrants and seniors with low literacy skills.
    • Consider funding a conference to examine best practices on health literacy and enhance partnerships with service provider organizations to distribute health information to seniors.
  • Drug coverage and health supplies
    • Continue to collaborate with provincial and territorial governments on improving the affordability of needed drug therapies and access to these therapies under the National Pharmaceuticals StrategyFootnote 12, which has led to significant improvements in public drug coverage in a number of jurisdictions.
    • Continue its leadership role in providing health-related services and supplies, such as dental and vision services, eyeglasses and hearing aids and physiotherapy services, to populations for which the federal government has primary responsibility, such as First Nations living on reserves, Inuit and eligible veterans.
  • Home and unpaid care
    • Implement a targeted seniors volunteerism initiative component under the New Horizons for Seniors Program to enable organizations that offer community-based services and activities for seniors, such as meals, home maintenance or transportation services, to increase their volunteer base.
    • Enhance existing measures that provide financial assistance to caregivers. The federal government could also collect expert advice on new initiatives that could be implemented to assist low-income caregivers.
    • Ensure that organizations that provide support to caregivers are aware of and eligible for existing federal programs and initiatives designed to meet the needs of vulnerable populations.
  • Physical activity
    • Promote awareness of the benefits of physical activity for seniors through a national awareness campaign, building on existing materials such as PHAC’s publication Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living for Older Adults.
    • Work in partnership with experts in the area to develop a healthy eating guide to provide seniors with information, tips and tools to promote healthy eating and nutrition.
    • Examine different incentives that promote healthy aging to assist seniors in remaining physically active, independent and involved in their communities.

Awareness and Delivery of Services and Benefits

Key challenges

  • Outreach and communication: Service Canada makes a significant effort to improve seniors’ knowledge of federal services and benefits, but seniors may not be aware of services and benefits for a variety of reasons:
    • electronic communications are problematic. Online information only works for computer-literate people with access to a computer. Automated telephone systems can be impersonal, confusing and frustrating;
    • many flyers and mail-outs are not in plain language, or they may be misplaced or thrown away; and
    • personal contact is the preferred and most effective approach.

Reaching those at risk: Low awareness of services and benefits is especially prevalent among seniors living in rural communities who may lack access to personalized assistance, and among recent arrivals to Canada, who may not know either official language or understand the Canadian system of taxation and benefits.

Application process: Even when seniors know about available programs and services, the application process can discourage them. Some seniors may be too proud to ask for help with an application form even if they are eligible for a program. In addition, many current seniors did not finish high school. Seniors with literacy problems need information provided to them verbally, either by a person (in person or by phone) or by advertisements on radio or television. They also need help filling out application forms.

Working with community: The support offered through the voluntary sector is essential to improving the situations of low-income seniors or those at risk. Community-based organizations are often best positioned to identify seniors at risk. While many seniors turn first to these organizations for help, one Regina participant noted that many socially isolated seniors are too ashamed and embarrassed about being poor to ask for help. In Calgary, a participant highlighted the value of the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program, sponsored by the Canada Revenue Agency, which helps low-income seniors complete their income tax returns, and can also help identify those who may not be receiving benefits for which they are eligible.

Partnerships with governments: Relationships between service providers and governments need to be strengthened to ensure that community organizations and volunteers are getting accurate and up-to-date information to pass on to seniors.

Financial resources: Many organizations struggle to secure enough funding to meet demand. Government funding is often too short term to provide continuous services. The New Horizons for Seniors Program, for example, garnered positive reviews as an important source of funds, but the one-year grant does not allow a number of organizations enough time to secure other sources of funds. Consequently, just as a promising project is up and running, it risks being eliminated.

Success at the Community Level
The New Horizons for Seniors Program (NHSP) helps to ensure that seniors are able to benefit from and contribute to the quality of life in their communities through social participation and active living. Since 2004, NHSP has funded more than 3,400 community-based projects and touched the lives of thousands of seniors across Canada.

Human resources: Voluntary organizations rarely have enough money to hire more than a handful of staff. Since many cannot compete with other sectors for wages and benefits, it is also hard for them to find and retain employees. However, full-time staff members are essential since they can accumulate experience and expertise often unavailable to part-time employees and volunteers.

Volunteers: Organizations are not sustainable without volunteers. In the near future, organizations fear they will lose their reliable long-term volunteers who are aging. Baby boomers may want active retirements, but have different demands and expectations about their volunteer experiences than previous generations of senior volunteers. Among this “new breed” of volunteers, many seek opportunities that are engaging and rewarding, but they also want autonomy over their work and flexible time commitments. New approaches to attract volunteers may be needed to retain essential programs and services for seniors in communities.

Suggestions for action

The Council identified the following suggestions for federal government consideration based on participants’ comments:

  • Outreach and communication
    • Continue to invest in supplying affordable housing through the federal Affordable Housing Initiative.
    • Build on existing efforts to increase knowledge and awareness of federal services and benefits available to seniors through a national awareness campaign using print, radio and television advertising. This campaign could target seniors with low literacy levels and newcomers to Canada to ensure that vulnerable populations are aware of benefits for which they may be eligible.
    • Promote and further develop the Web site www.seniors.gc.ca and the federal Services for Seniors Guide, to support seniors and their families in accessing information on federal supports for unpaid caregivers, housing programs, volunteer opportunities and healthy living, and to increase their awareness of these initiatives.
  • Reaching those at risk
    • Continue to support and expand initiatives such as the Government of Canada’s Working Together Workshop, designed to increase awareness and take-up of OAS and CPP benefits in remote Aboriginal communities. This initiative was successfully piloted in 2006–07 and will be rolled out across Canada in 2008–09.
  • Application process
    • Continue to streamline and simplify application processes and forms for federal services and benefits. Information packages could be sent more than once before applicants turn 65; these packages could include a step-by-step instruction sheet with contact telephone numbers to make it easier for seniors to understand how to fill out the application forms and how to get help if they need it.
  • Working with community
    • Ensure that local service providers, especially those in rural and remote communities, and those working with hard-to-reach populations (e.g., individuals who face literacy challenges or homeless individuals) have access to up-to-date information on federal programs and services by providing them with informational sessions and resources on the programs and services available to seniors. Materials from pilot projects such as the Guide to Information for Service Providers/Professionals developed by the then Human Resources and Social Development Canada, the City of Ottawa and COSTI (an organization that supports immigrants, based in Toronto), could be used to train service providers in other regions.
    • Work to develop a formalized assessment process that could be used by Service Canada information officers and other service providers across the country to determine which benefits seniors may be in need of and eligible for.
  • Partnerships with governments
    • Work in partnership with provincial and territorial governments and service providers to develop an inventory of existing services for seniors across the country. This would increase awareness and consistency of information about resources available to lowincome seniors among service providers.
  • Volunteers
    • Examine options for providing compensation to individuals who volunteer and/or to organizations that rely on volunteers to deliver services or programs, and study ways to recruit and retain future generations of volunteers.
    • Consider implementing a Canada-wide campaign that encourages and promotes volunteerism across the life course.

Conclusions

While the decline in the low-income rate among seniors is a great accomplishment, there are still seniors with low incomes who are not able to live life to the fullest.

Most people do not experience dramatic declines in income when they turn 65. More often, low income in old age results from economic standing experienced over a lifetime. As such, efforts need to focus on the economic vulnerability of individuals before they become seniors.

Improving the quality of life for low-income seniors is not simply a matter of additional income. Low income can result from many factors and can have many consequences. Interventions for low-income seniors should be part of a broader public policy initiative aimed at improving well-being.

The federal, provincial and territorial governments all have policies and programs within their jurisdictions that influence the well-being of low-income seniors. The federal government provides income support for seniors through the public pension system, primarily through OAS and the GIS. The federal government administers the CPP under the joint stewardship of the provincial and territorial governments. Many provinces also provide income assistance to low-income seniors through supplements such as a top-up to the federal GIS.

While the federal government contributes financially to programs and services for seniors in the areas of health, housing and transportation, provincial and territorial governments have primary responsibility for the funding and delivery of these programs. The voluntary and not-for-profit sectors also provide services to seniors. As the issue of low income is a national concern, it will require many players working in partnership to address the issue successfully.

The National Seniors Council recognizes the complexity of the low-income issue and realizes that there are no simple solutions. However, the Council believes this report provides the federal government with some practical and achievable ideas for consideration and possible action.

Summary of Suggestions for Action

The Council offers the following suggestions for the federal government’s consideration:

Income

  • Examine all elements of federal pension benefits, such as the GIS earnings exemption, to ensure that they are fully indexed to inflation. The earnings exemption allows GIS recipients who choose to work to keep the first $3,500 without having their benefits reduced. The amount of the exemption is fixed, however, and will lose value over time as wages and prices rise.
  • Implement an energy cost benefit for low-income seniors, modeled on the federal Energy Cost Benefit of 2006, to help offset increasing energy costs.
  • Conduct an analysis of existing federal, provincial and territorial programs and services available to seniors to better understand how changes in an individual’s income may have an impact on the receipt of benefits and services; and work with provinces and territories to better coordinate programs and services.
  • Continue to help increase the financial literacy of Canadians by promoting existing information and educational tools, such as the 2001 Human Resources Development Canada publication Canada’s Retirement Income System: What’s In It For You? and the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s online resource www.themoneybelt.gc.ca; and work with the public and private sectors to develop new materials tailored to seniors.
  • Develop partnerships to incorporate initiatives such as the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s The CityFootnote 13 and The Canada Pension Plan: What’s it got to do with me? program into high schools, to help educate young Canadians about responsible money management, financial planning, pensions and retirement.

Housing

  • Continue to invest in supplying affordable housing through the federal Affordable Housing Initiative.
  • Build on the work of PHAC’s Age Friendly Communities Initiative to ensure that policies, programs and services meet the evolving needs of seniors. PHAC could work in collaboration with other government departments to examine how existing programs and initiatives could be used to assist communities in becoming more age friendly.
  • Continue to fund and promote awareness of the CMHC’s Home Adaptations for Seniors Independence program and the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance program.
  • Examine the implementation of a seniors independence program that would provide low-income seniors with an annual supplement to assist them in accessing grounds maintenance, housekeeping and transportation services.

Transportation

  • Conduct an analysis of existing transportation programs and resources available to seniors to identify barriers to service use and gaps in service delivery, increase awareness of services and identify promising best practices.
  • Conduct a review of innovative transportation programs for seniors and people with reduced mobility, such as the Transportation Project and the ITNAmerica program, and consider their applicability for pilot projects in other jurisdictions.
  • Examine the option of providing financial support to individuals or community groups that provide seniors with rides to appointments, to help offset some of the costs of fuel and insurance.

Health

  • Ensure that health-related brochures, pamphlets and other informational tools are readable and accessible to seniors and care providers, including recent immigrants and seniors with low literacy skills.
  • Consider funding a conference to examine best practices on health literacy and enhance partnerships with service provider organizations to distribute health information to seniors.
  • Continue to collaborate with provincial and territorial governments on improving the affordability of needed drug therapies and access to these therapies under the National Pharmaceuticals Strategy, which has led to significant improvements in public drug coverage in a number of jurisdictions.
  • Continue its leadership role in providing health-related services and supplies, such as dental and vision services, eyeglasses and hearing aids and physiotherapy services, to populations for which the federal government has primary responsibility, such as First Nations living on reserves, Inuit and eligible veterans.
  • Implement a targeted seniors volunteerism initiative component under the New Horizons for Seniors Program to enable organizations that offer community-based services and activities for seniors, such as meals, home maintenance or transportation services, to increase their volunteer base.
  • Enhance existing measures that provide financial assistance to caregivers. The federal government could also collect expert advice on new initiatives that could be implemented to assist low-income caregivers.
  • Ensure that organizations that provide support to caregivers are aware of and eligible for existing federal programs and initiatives designed to meet the needs of vulnerable populations.
  • Promote awareness of the benefits of physical activity for seniors through a national awareness campaign, building on existing materials such as PHAC’s publication Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living for Older Adults.
  • Work in partnership with experts in the area to develop a healthy eating guide to provide seniors with information, tips and tools to promote healthy eating and nutrition.
  • Examine different incentives that promote healthy aging to assist seniors in remaining physically active, independent and involved in their communities.

Awareness and Delivery of Services and Benefits

  • Build on existing efforts to increase knowledge and awareness of federal services and benefits available to seniors through a national awareness campaign using print, radio and television advertising. This campaign could target seniors with low literacy levels and newcomers to Canada, to ensure that vulnerable populations are aware of benefits for which they may be eligible.
  • Promote and further develop the Web site www.seniors.gc.ca and the federal Services for Seniors Guide, to support seniors and their families in accessing information on federal supports for unpaid caregivers, housing programs, volunteer opportunities and healthy living, and to increase their awareness of these initiatives.
  • Continue to support and expand initiatives such as the Government of Canada’s Working Together Workshop, designed to increase awareness and take up of OAS and CPP benefits in remote Aboriginal communities. This initiative was successfully piloted in 2006–07 and will be rolled out across Canada in 2008–09.
  • Continue to streamline and simplify application processes and forms for federal services and benefits. Information packages could be sent more than once before people turn 65; these packages could include a step-by-step instruction sheet with contact telephone numbers, to make it easier for seniors to understand how to fill out the application forms and how to get help if they need it.
  • Ensure that local service providers, especially those in rural and remote communities, and those working with hard-to-reach populations (e.g., individuals who face literacy challenges or homeless individuals) have access to up-to-date information on federal programs and services by providing them with informational sessions and resources on the programs and services available to seniors. Materials from pilot projects such as the Guide to Information for Service Providers/Professionals developed by the then Human Resources and Social Development Canada, the City of Ottawa and COSTI (an organization that supports immigrants, based in Toronto), could be used to train service providers in other regions.
  • Work to develop a formalized assessment process that could be used by Service Canada information officers and other service providers across the country to determine which benefits seniors may be in need of and eligible for.
  • Work in partnership with provincial and territorial governments and service providers to develop an inventory of existing services for seniors across the country. This would increase awareness and consistency of information about resources available to lowincome seniors among service providers.
  • Examine options for providing compensation to offset the costs faced by individuals who volunteer and/or to organizations that rely on volunteers to deliver services or programs, and study ways to recruit and retain future generations of volunteers.
  • Consider implementing a Canada-wide campaign that encourages and promotes volunteerism across the life course.
Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: