Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

March 20, 2009 12:00 ET

Government of Canada Announces New Priorities for National Seniors Council

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 20, 2009) - The Honourable Marjory LeBreton, Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister of State (Seniors), today announced new priorities for the National Seniors Council (NSC) at the wrap-up of the Council's first meeting of 2009.

"The Government of Canada recognizes seniors as valuable members of society who contribute a diversity of skills, knowledge and experience to their families and communities," said Minister LeBreton, who oversees the work of the NSC. "That is why I have asked the National Seniors Council to make volunteerism as well as positive and active aging its next priorities."

Minister LeBreton joined NSC Chair Jean-Guy Souliere and other Council members for the NSC's March 19 to 20 meeting in Ottawa, during which the Council reviewed its activities from the past year and discussed its plans for addressing its new priorities.

"We are confident that the work of the National Seniors Council will help the Government of Canada better understand the needs of seniors who are willing to dedicate their time and energy to their communities and their country," said Mr. Souliere. "We are also very pleased to look into what it takes for seniors to stay active, remain engaged and continue contributing to society."

The Government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper established the NSC to provide it with advice on issues of importance to Canada's seniors. Since 2007, the NSC has undertaken work on elder abuse and low income among seniors, convening roundtable meetings across Canada with stakeholders and seniors' organizations.

Last year, for example, in its examination of low income among seniors, the Council met with groups from across the country to discuss the issues and challenges faced by low-income seniors, and to hear ideas about how to help improve their lives. The Report of the National Seniors Council on Low Income Among Seniors was submitted in February 2009.

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.

- 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.

- Helping 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, and by expanding the number of eligible communities to include older workers in small cities.

- Establishing an independent Task Force to make recommendations on a cohesive national strategy on financial literacy for Canadians.

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 (NSC) was publicly 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, reflecting the importance of health-related issues for older Canadians. The Ministers are supported by the Honourable Marjory LeBreton, Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister of State (Seniors), who oversees the Council.

Volunteering and positive and active aging

Minister LeBreton identified volunteering and positive and active aging as the Council's next 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, were: exploring ways to raise awareness and combat elder abuse; and helping the Government to 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 the issue of 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, particularly 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 to combat all forms of elder abuse - physical, financial, psychological and sexual, as well as neglect.

In Budget 2008, the Government announced funding of $13 million over three years to help seniors and others recognize the signs and symptoms of elder abuse, and to provide information on what support is available. This is in addition to the funding provided to the New Horizons for Seniors program to ensure a continued focus on raising awareness of elder abuse.

2. Low-Income Seniors

The Council began work on the issue of 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 diagnostic work as well as the roundtable 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 by:

- Increasing GIS benefits by $18 for single pensioners and $29 for couples in January 2006 and again in January 2007. Approximately 1.6 million GIS recipients have benefited from these increases.

- Increasing the GIS earnings exemption to $3,500 from $500. A single pensioner, for example, earning $3,500 or more, will now be able to keep up to an additional $1,500 in annual GIS benefits.

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
    613-943-0756