The Yukon government has released a new action plan for supporting seniors aging in the community, but advocates are waiting to see what funding and timelines will follow.
The 52-page Aging in Place Action Plan was released Sept. 29 and identifies 56 specific actions, both long-term and short-term, to improve the lives of seniors and elders in the territory.
The plan is holistic — it examines both practical concerns, such as housing, in addition to supports that ensure seniors continue to contribute to the community and aren’t disregarded ageism.
“The objective is ensuring that we provide care for seniors to age well in place, wherever they reside in their home community,” said Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost.
Frost said she can draw from her own experience as someone who is both getting closer to being an Elder and someone who has helped to find care for aging parents in a remote community.
“In my community, I know what’s there, I know what’s not there, I know that system, we have to be better. Doing better means that we need to engage with the seniors and listen to what their needs are,” she said.
Frost said the next step is forming an advisory committee.
The Seniors Action Yukon, a volunteer group that advocates for older Yukoners aged 55 and up, commended a number of new initiatives in the plan and said they’re watching closely for details.
“Overall it’s a good start,” said Lillian Nakamura-Maguire, a volunteer with Seniors Action Yukon. “But the devil is in the details. All of these things require funding. It’s fine to say they’re going to do it, but it’s a matter of funding and putting resources towards it as well.”
Public engagement that informed the action plan took place in 2018 and 2019 with seniors and Elders, governments, NGOs and community organizations.
Seniors are defined as those that are ages 65 and over. They are the fastest-growing age group in Yukon and it’s projected that the senior population will more than double in the next 20 years.
As of Dec. 2019, 74 per cent of seniors were living in the Whitehorse area and 26 per cent of seniors were living in rural communities.
Seniors Action Yukon applauded the inclusion of new transportation initiatives that would improve mobility, a seniors advisory committee and dementia support for both individuals and caregivers.
Nakamura-Maguire said the group would have also liked to see more improvement on how home care is delivered and a dedicated government role for helping seniors to navigate the complex government systems.
Nakamura-Maguire also said seniors are concerned about standards for long-term and supportive housing. Incidents during COVID-19, including neglect and death from outbreaks, have illustrated the need for standards, she said.
The federal government mentioned the need for long-term care oversights in this year’s throne speech and has made a commitment to introduce national standards and punishments for neglect.
The government recently announced it will cover the cost of the shingles vaccine for adults aged 65 to 70 starting on Jan. 1, 2021. The suggestion to cover the cost of the immunization was raised by the Yukon Party in 2018.
Contact Haley Ritchie at firstname.lastname@example.org