Area seniors voice their concerns at the federal level
PHOTO COURTESY THE OFFICE OF MINISTER DEBORAH SCHULTE
Vaudreuil-Soulanges MP Peter Schiefke (top left) along with the federal Minister for Seniors Deborah Schulte (second from left) took part in a Zoom meeting this week to answer questions and listen to the concerns of seniors in our region.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many residents' concerns to the forefront, notably those who are the most vulnerable in terms of health and personal finances, and the group of citizens who form the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Seniors' Council addressed some of their concerns this week to Deborah Schulte, the federal Minister for Seniors.
Organized through the office of Vaudreuil-Soulanges Liberal MP Peter Schiefke, the committee which meets quarterly is comprised of roughly a dozen regional residents and they connected with the minister via Zoom on Monday, August 17 for a roughly one-hour meeting to pose questions on a number of senior-related issues.
“This was an opportunity to listen to concerns of the constituents and provide direct feedback,” said Schiefke's Communications Director Jenn Frezza of Schulte's participation in the round table discussion.
Committee member and Vaudreuil-Dorion resident Deirdre Potash raised the issue of isolation, particularly prevalent since the virus outbreak. As a teaching artist, Potash lost all her contracts and revenue stream in March but said what's been more difficult is the loss of contact with her students and her social circle.
“My main concern is isolation,” she said. “There are friends I haven't seen for five months.” Due to health concerns, she didn't even step into a store for months on end.
Isolation for seniors is not a new issue. A Statistics Canada report issued in 2014 cited not only the negative mental and physical health issues of isolation but the domino effect that extends to the greater community. “The social isolation of seniors can cause communities to suffer a lack of social cohesion, higher social costs, and the loss of an unquantifiable wealth of experience that older adults bring to our families, neighbourhoods and communities,” the report states.
“The minister indicated there is money being earmarked for this issue,” said Potash. “Even before COVID, the idea of isolation – as it ties into mental health – has been studied.
“I was honoured to be part of the meeting,” Potash added. “I feel like I, and everyone else who took part, was being heard.”
“Besides taxation on old age pensions and isolation, one of the topics talked about was housing,” said Île-Perrot resident and committee member Wendy Doran who recounted the minister discussing a federal/provincial partnership for seniors' housing.
Doran, along with fellow committee member and Saint-Lazare resident Fiona Watts, are both parents of autistic adult children. As reported in The Journal November 22, 2018, the pair has been lobbying both provincial and federal government representatives to ensure continuity in care for all adult children with special needs once their parents (typically their primary caregivers) are too advanced in age to continue to care for them. Their foundation titled ‘Un toît pour nous’ is comprised of parents who are seeking to build and maintain home-like environments in which they feel confident to house and care for their children after they, as parents, are no longer able to.
“We want to see if solutions in senior housing could possibly be used for our kids as well,” said Doran, adding that many parent caregivers are in the same boat across the country. “We all know someone who is struggling.”
The pandemic has added an extra burden to the senior parents as many of the day programs their children would attend, even if on a part-time basis, have been suspended since the outbreak.
“The minister was speaking specifically about seniors but it blends very nicely with our project,” said Doran who added she was optimistic following the discussion and felt the minister was open to creative solutions, possibly a public/private commitment to have a specialized facility available for her daughter and others in the same situation.
“We're happy to pay a certain amount but it's an impossible proposition without government support.”