Insights on aging sought at symposium

Seniors advisory members Alex MacBeath (left), Jennifer Burgess, Dr. Michael Corman, and Olive Bryanton.

With more Islanders entering their senior years, health professionals are looking for guidance from those dealing with the challenges presented by an aging population.

Nearly 100 people gathered recently at Holland College to ask questions such as “what can we do to better serve seniors? and “how do we know we are serving seniors to the best of the province’s ability?” They were part of a senior’s symposium on our aging population, and represented a range of seniors groups, community leaders, and health professionals.

The number of people on Prince Edward Island aged 65 and over in 2016 was 28,092. This is projected to rise to 38,324 in 10 years and eventually to more than 51,000 by 2056.

Dr. Mike Corman, medical sociologist, is principal advisor for seniors health at the Department of Health and Wellness. He said all Islanders have a stake in seeing a sustainable and effective system of supports for Island seniors.

Corman said the input from Thursday’s symposium will be combined with feedback from other sources and meetings to develop a long-range strategy responsive to community needs.

“The foundation of this strategy development process is built on a collaborative approach with individuals from the public and private sector,” he said.

“We’re hoping to get input from seniors, from near seniors and from people involved in caring for seniors. In addition, we are seeking input from a variety of other stakeholders whose work interfaces with these groups.”

All Canadian jurisdictions face similar challenges. Life spans are getting longer, the baby boomers are moving into their senior years, and people seek to live in their communities as independently as possible.

“What we would like to develop here is a short-term (3-5 year) and long-term (10-15 year) vision so that we can support seniors today while also envisioning a system that can meet the future needs of all Islanders,” Corman said.

The event was the beginning of the process of developing a health and wellness strategy for Island seniors. In addition, those attending have been tasked with expanding on this week’s insights discussion by working collaboratively in their advisory network groups. This work will conclude in December, when the final symposium will be held.

While there was a diverse representation from many communities at the symposium, Corman will also seek out the opinions of other individuals/groups, including those who may not feel at ease in a public forum or who could not attend.

“We want to reach people who may not be members of the advisory network in order to ensure the diversity of voices of Island seniors, near seniors, and caregivers are heard. Some examples include individuals who are hard of hearing, people in rural settings, the Acadian community, the Indigenous community, individuals with disabilities, individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning.”

He said they hope to see a strategy developed by spring 2018.

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