Seniors strategy would impact Muskoka
Muskoka will be one of the first to experiment and feel the impact if a new seniors strategy is implemented by the province, according to a district official.
Rick Williams, commissioner of community services for the District of Muskoka, said the high percentage of people over the age of 65 in Muskoka means the area will be one of the first to feel the impacts of any new plans released by the province to provide for the aging population.
“We’re going to be one of the canaries in the mine shaft, I think, because our population is so skewed toward seniors that we’re going to get there more dramatically, earlier than other communities in Ontario,” Williams said.
His comments were in response to a report by Dr. Samir K. Sinha who was commissioned by the province to develop a seniors strategy.
The strategy included 160 recommendations to better the senior-care system in Ontario and make it more sustainable.
“If left unaddressed, our demographic challenge could bankrupt the province,” the report said.
In 2011, there were 1.9 million Ontarians over the age of 65 or 14.6 per cent of the province’s population. Currently, that portion of the population is responsible for nearly half of the province’s annual health-care spending.
The number of elders in Ontario is expected to double over the next 20 years; with a large demographic of older adults, Muskoka will be heavily impacted.
The migration of retirees in and younger people out has left Muskoka with the highest number of people over the age of 65 in Ontario.
“That’ll be a particular challenge because we’ll have this whole group needing service, with fewer in the age cohort who are service providers,” Williams said.
One of the big changes Williams foresees is more home care and long-term care for the elders to take the strain off of hospitals. He also sees the need to update training for those working with elders.
Currently the report is not government policy but implementation is expected in the coming years.
“I think everyone now knows that we have this challenging demographic of a huge explosion in the number of seniors over the coming years and costs related to their care along the model that we currently have. So we’re going to have to radically change the model,” Williams said.
“Trends do become dramatic problems before they become resolved.”
The report also concluded that most older Ontarians prefer to be called “older adults” or “elders” rather than “seniors.”