October 1, is the International Day of Older Persons. The Day was created by the UN in 1990 to raise everyone’s awareness of the issues – including illness and abuse – that older persons face. For me, this is a day to take the time to appreciate how much our seniors contribute to Canadian society.
Too often people ignore the fact that many older persons remain active, as volunteers, caregivers, mentors – and workers. Their ongoing contributions to our communities are invaluable.
Let us not forget, however, the difficulties they have gone through since the beginning of the pandemic. Many have suffered terrible isolation, others have lost loved ones. The unluckiest have faced illness.
Since March 2020, seniors’ wellbeing has made daily headlines. During the fall 2021 federal election campaign, Justin Trudeau’s promise to inject $6 billion in funding into long-term care was well-timed. Our Prime Minister understands that an aging population, combined with a labour shortage in the senior care sector, calls for massive investments.
As Canadians are aging, so too are our facilities. Care workers are exhausted; they need help. In caring about our seniors’ wellbeing, they have put their own health at risk. Their sacrifices and dedication deserve adequate compensation.
Teamsters Canada is calling on all levels of government, and all private sector retirement homes and long term care facilities, to make lasting improvements to these employees’ working conditions. For years, workers have been telling us that the labour shortage in this industry is directly related to their working conditions. No longer can we stand back and ignore this situation: it has immediate repercussions on the quality of care for our seniors.
This truth is particularly relevant given that aging of the population will be faster in Canada than in many other countries. Growth in the proportion of retired persons will outpace that of working age Canadians: according to Statistics Canada, by 2030 or so, one Canadian in four will be 65 or older.
As well, as the population ages, gender distribution is also changing, since women have a longer life expectancy than men.
In Canada, we like to think that we care for our seniors and value the women and men who look after them. The pandemic, however, has shed light on numerous longstanding shortcomings in our long term care system. The International Day of Older Persons is the perfect opportunity to show tangible evidence that we have learned from our mistakes and are making the decisions needed to ensure a better tomorrow for our seniors and those who care for them.
President of Teamsters Canada
Vice President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters