Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

November 26, 2009 11:30 ET

Government of Canada and National Seniors Council Listen to Seniors in Ottawa

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Nov. 26, 2009) - At a national round table on seniors' issues today, the Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, the Honourable Marjory LeBreton, Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister of State (Seniors), and members of the National Seniors Council (NSC) met with a number of national organizations, including seniors' groups, to examine the NSC's two current priorities: volunteering among seniors, and positive and active aging.

"Seniors' contributions are wide-ranging and significant. They are volunteers, mentors, leaders, and skilled and experienced workers," said Minister Finley. "The resilience and sustainability of our society depend on their continued participation."

"Our government recognizes that seniors are valuable members of society who contribute a diversity of skills, knowledge and experience to their families and their communities," said Minister LeBreton, who oversees the work of the NSC along with her colleagues, Minister Finley and the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health and Minister Responsible for the North. "We also recognize a changing demographic; that is why our government has asked the National Seniors Council to make positive and active aging, as well as volunteering among seniors, its new priorities."

The national roundtable followed a series of eight cross-Canada round table discussions and presented an opportunity to identify possible areas for action to support seniors.

"We are confident that the work of the National Seniors Council will help the Government of Canada better understand what it takes for seniors to stay active, remain engaged and continue contributing to society," said Mr. Jean-Guy Souliere, Chair of the NSC.

Since 2007, the NSC has undertaken work on elder abuse and low income among seniors, convening round table meetings across Canada with seniors, seniors' organizations and other stakeholders. The Government has launched a national awareness campaign to help seniors and others recognize the signs and symptoms of elder abuse and provide information on available support.

Our government is unwavering in our commitment to tackle crime and protect the rights of Canadians, including older Canadians and those who are more vulnerable. We worked tirelessly to ensure that legislation on identity theft would pass last month; this will provide police and justice officials with important new tools in the fight against identity theft, to help stop these crimes before they are committed.

We are making streets and communities across the country safer for seniors and for Canadians of all ages. From legislation providing for tougher sentences for fraud and legislation helping combat white-collar crime, to legislation introduced this week that is assisting in the fight against sexual exploitation of children, our government is making the protection of our society and the rights of victims our priority.

The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that policies, programs and services meet the evolving needs of seniors. Canada's Economic Action Plan announced a number of new initiatives that will have a positive effect on seniors:

- Increasing the Age Credit by $1,000 for 2009 and beyond to allow eligible seniors to receive up to an additional $150 in annual tax savings;

- Providing $400 million over two years through the Affordable Housing Initiative for the construction of housing units for low-income seniors; and

- Providing seniors with $200 million in tax relief by reducing the required minimum withdrawal amount for 2008 from Registered Retirement Income Funds by 25 percent, in recognition of the impact of the deterioration in market conditions on retirement savings.

The Government of Canada is also supporting positive and active aging through efforts such as the collaborative Age-Friendly Communities Initiative, Canada's Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living for Older Adults, and falls prevention initiatives.

For more information on the NSC, please visit www.seniorscouncil.gc.ca.


BACKGROUNDER

The National Seniors Council

Mandate of the National Seniors Council

The National Seniors Council was announced in March 2007 to advise the federal government on all matters related to the well-being and quality of life of seniors, including the opportunities and challenges arising from a rapidly growing and increasingly diverse seniors population.

The Council reports to the Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, in light of her responsibilities with respect to seniors, and the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, whose portfolio reflects the importance of health-related issues for older Canadians. The Honourable Marjory LeBreton, Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister of State (Seniors), is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Council.

Volunteering and positive and active aging

Minister LeBreton identified volunteering and positive and active aging as the Council's new priorities.

Volunteering is linked to improved quality of life, stronger social networks, increased mental well-being and higher physical activity levels. Volunteering also helps seniors navigate major life transitions, such as retirement.

Positive and active aging is a timely issue for Canadians, given our aging population. With an increase in longevity, Canadians are enjoying more years of good health as they age. As such, many seniors will have longer periods of retirement in which to continue to contribute to Canadian society.

Council's first two priorities

The first two priorities of the Council, as identified by Minister LeBreton, involved (1) exploring ways to raise awareness and combat elder abuse, and (2) helping the Government find ways to support low-income seniors, particularly unattached women.

1. Elder abuse

In the fall of 2007, the National Seniors Council held five meetings with stakeholder groups in regions across the country to discuss elder abuse. The purpose of these meetings was for the Council to gain a solid appreciation of experts' and stakeholders' experiences in addressing elder abuse matters, in particular by identifying circumstances that provoke and lead to abuse of seniors. These meetings were held to enrich the pool of ideas on good practices for raising awareness as a means of prevention.

The National Seniors Council subsequently submitted a report on the issue to the federal government in November 2007.

The Government of Canada is helping combat all forms of elder abuse-physical, financial, psychological and sexual-as well as neglect, by taking action on a number of fronts:

- In Budget 2008, the federal government furthered its commitment to combatting elder abuse by announcing funding of $13 million over three years to help seniors and others recognize the signs and symptoms of elder abuse and to develop tools for front-line workers who have regular contact with seniors, alerting them to signs of abuse and helping them provide support.

- In 2009, the federal government launched an elder abuse awareness campaign. Since the start of the campaign, thousands of Canadians have contacted the Government of Canada to get more information.

- The New Horizons for Seniors Program (NHSP) helps ensure that seniors are able to benefit from and contribute to the quality of life in their communities through social participation and active living. The program was expanded by $10 million per year, with a portion of the new funding to be used for elder abuse awareness.

- A one-time call for proposals for the Federal Elder Abuse Initiative through the New Horizons for Seniors Program was also launched on June 15, 2009. This call for proposals will fund up to 10 projects in total. The maximum funding is $200,000 per project over 24 months. National and Quebec professional associations are invited to visit www.seniors.gc.ca for further information.

- The Government of Canada has introduced new legislation to help protect all Canadians, including seniors, against identity theft.

2. Low-income seniors

The Council began work on low income among seniors in late 2007 through an examination and review of national data on income, wealth and expenditure patterns among seniors, and a review of how public pension plans have helped reduce low income among seniors.

This work, as well as the round table meetings that followed, provided the foundation for the development of the Report of the National Seniors Council on Low Income Among Seniors, submitted in February 2009.

The federal government has recently helped low-income seniors through the following initiatives:

- In 2007-2008, the Government of Canada paid $32 billion in Old Age Security benefits, including $7.4 billion for the Guaranteed Income Supplement, to low-income seniors.

- In 2008, the Government of Canada increased the Guaranteed Income Supplement earnings exemption to put more money in the pockets of working, low-income seniors. A single pensioner, for example, earning $3,500 or more, will now be able to keep up to an additional $1,500 in annual Guaranteed Income Supplement benefits.

- In Canada's Economic Action Plan, the federal government provided $400 million over two years through the Affordable Housing Initiative for the construction of housing units for low-income seniors.

- The Government of Canada increased the Age Credit by $1,000 for 2009 and beyond to allow eligible seniors to receive up to an additional $150 in annual tax savings.

- The federal government has provided seniors with $200 million in tax relief by reducing the required minimum withdrawal amount for 2008 from Registered Retirement Income Funds by 25 percent, in recognition of the impact of the deterioration in market conditions on retirement savings.

- The federal government has helped older workers and their families through these tough economic times by investing an additional $60 million over three years in the Targeted Initiative for Older Workers (TIOW) and expanding the number of eligible communities to include older workers in small cities.

- The Government of Canada has established an independent Task Force on Financial Literacy to make recommendations on a cohesive national strategy on financial literacy for Canadians.

This news release is available in alternative formats upon request.

Contact Information

  • Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
    Media Relations Office
    819-994-5559
    or
    Office of Minister LeBreton
    Rebecca Murphy
    Senior Policy Advisor
    613-697-4449