Yukon Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost says a meeting of ministers responsible for seniors across the country was an opportunity to meet with colleagues and share the unique circumstances of the North in addressing the needs of its senior populations.
The Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers Responsible for Seniors Forum was in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island on May 22.
As Frost said in a May 23 interview from Charlottetown, the importance of culture for northern elders was highlighted by herself as well as her colleagues from the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
The Yukon’s senior population is 25 per cent Indigenous. That number is much higher in Nunavut, with the N.W.T. also having a large Indigenous elder population, she said.
And that means looking at aging in place from a cultural perspective too — ensuring services are in place so that elders are better able to remain in their home communities and practice their culture.
“It was really an opportunity to educate (about) our view of the world,” Frost said.
With federal Minister of Seniors Filomena Tassi being new to her role, Frost said it was also important Tassi heard the northern perspective.
Frost said she made it clear the cost of delivering services in places like her home community of Old Crow are substantially more than in areas down south that have direct road access and where the cost of living is less. Federal transfers to the North need to reflect that reality, she said.
A statement released after the meeting described the session as an opportunity for ministers to look at priorities and new ways to support Canadian seniors.
“We need to ensure that we recognize the contributions of seniors with programs and policies that continue to meet the evolving needs of an aging population. The discussions with my provincial and territorial colleagues today reinforce the need to collaborate on issues important to seniors. Together, we will continue to work to find ways to make Canada a better place to live and age,” Tassi said in a statement.
Discussion throughout the meeting focused on two reports commissioned by the forum. The first stressed the need to better understand the housing needs of seniors and ensure housing and communities support independent living by seniors, while the second focused on support services available for seniors across the country. The reports are set to be made available on the forum’s website in the coming months.
Housing issues continue to be a major issue across the country.
In the Yukon, Frost pointed to recent efforts including the reablement and respite program now offered at the Thomson Centre. The reablement program is aimed at helping Yukoners regain independence so they can stay in their homes longer, while the respite program provides temporary support to individuals living independently or being cared for by a friend or family member.
The 10-bed unit opened in December.
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