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By Kathy Majowski, CNPEA Board Chair

In 2018, the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women called for the public to submit written briefs for the committee’s study on challenges faced by senior women in Canada, with a focus on the factors contributing to their poverty and vulnerability. The committee will release a final report, with recommendations, that will propose steps that the Government of Canada could take to help address these challenges. During the study, the committee will examine challenges faced by older women, including, but not limited to:

  • access to transportation;
  • access to health services and medication;
  • the cost of home and health services;
  • access to affordable housing;
  • access to justice; and
  • widowhood.

  • On May 2nd, 2019 the CNPEA was given an opportunity to serve as a witness and provide recommendations to this committee. As the Board Chair, I was honoured to present a summary of our written brief to the committee, and to answer the committee's questions.

    After an introduction of all panel members from the Committee Chair, Karen Vecchio, I was given the floor as the first presenter of the day. Following my presentation for the CNPEA was Bonnie Brighton (National Executive Director, DisAbled Women's Network Canada), Helen Kennedy (Executive Director, Egale Canada Human Rights Trust), Chaneesa Ryan (Director of Health, Native Women’s Association of Canada), and Roseann Martin (Indigenous Elder, appearing with the Native Women’s Association of Canada).

    All of the presenters had important messages and thoughtful recommendations, and the committee members sparked discussions that allowed each of us to provide additional details to each presentation.

    Some of the topics that were discussed by the panelists:

    • The importance of language when discussing older women (and avoiding terms that may have negative or ageist connotations)

    • The need for more specificity when discussing older women: the term “older women” often refers to several age groups that span 30-40 years; this means women from multiple generations, who have had a wide variety of life experiences, and require different supports that are based on more than just age

    • Improved access to transportation, particularly in rural and remote communities

    • In this time of Truth and Reconciliation, acknowledgment and supports for older Indigenous women, driven by Indigenous community members

    • Safe spaces and mandatory staff competency courses (developed with ongoing communication and direction from a national steering committee) for inclusion of LGBTQI2S in all sectors of gerontology and geriatric health care, especially in the long-term care sector.

    Below is a summary of CNPEA's recommendations:

    • Support awareness campaigns that help people understand elder abuse

    • Support the development of more bystander intervention training programs

    • Support the development of culturally safe and appropriate multilingual support services for older women

    • Support the development of orientation programs to help older women and their loved ones navigate complex systems such as the justice, immigration, and health care systems

    • Encourage the development of support programs that are accessible from home (like “Senior Centre Without Walls” from the A&O Support Services for Older Adults in Manitoba)

    • Improve access to regular and affordable transportation in rural areas

    • Access to benefits for full-time family caregivers, as well as greater financial support for older women who are caregivers for their grandchildren

    • Support and strengthen community-based groups and organizations that play an important role in empowering older women to engage in positive help-seeking behaviours

    • Encourage intergenerational programs and approaches (like the HomeShare Pilot Project implemented by the National Initiative for Care of the Elderly (NICE) and the City of Toronto)

    I was encouraged by the conversation and am eager to see the report that this committee will present to the Government of Canada. Follow this link for all of the submitted Briefs and Video/Audio recordings of Committee appearances.

    You can read our official brief here and access our summary presentation (PDF) here.



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