Pizzino: The Canadian government must make the fight against ageism a priority

According to the National Association of Federal Retirees, stereotyping and bias can have serious and harmful consequences.

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As of Nov. 20, Ontario hospitals are legally allowed to charge patients waiting for an appropriate long-term care bed $400 a day if they refuse to take their assigned one. The law has been criticized as « fundamentally discriminatory » against the frail and elderly, and two interest groups are preparing a Charter challenge against the legislation.

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This is just one of the ways in which older people have been discriminated against during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which some restrictions have not fully taken into account the needs of older people and the impacts of the isolation.

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Ontario’s punitive restrictions and onerous new hospital charges are two examples of ageism – a systemic form of oppression that is very often experienced by seniors, including some of the 170,000 people the Association represents. Federal Retirees National. Ageism manifests itself in the way of thinking, in the form of stereotypes; in the way we feel, in the form of prejudices; and in the way we act, in the form of discrimination. How ageism is experienced and addressed is influenced by gender, race and orientation. It comes to us from many sources – marketing, television, movies, media of all forms, government policies, health care delivery – and it can be implicit, explicit, institutional and personal.

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The fight against ageism is a priority for my organization. That’s why he joined the Canadian Coalition Against Ageism, which will officially launch on November 30th.

The purpose of this coalition is to encourage the Canadian government and the United Nations (UN) to support the recommendations of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Report on Ageism, including the recommendation the adoption of a Convention on the Rights of Older Persons. We are already in the United Nations Decade of Healthy Aging, so this is timely and relevant.

Another way to fight ageism is through public policy, education, data, and intergenerational conversations. The existence of ageism and its effects are real and can have far-reaching consequences for those who experience it. According to WHO, ageism is associated with shorter lifespan, poorer physical and mental health, slower recovery from disability, reduced quality of life, social isolation and increased risks of violence and abuse against older people.

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Despite federal seniors minister Kamal Khera’s promises to help communities become more age-friendly, the Liberal government has remained largely silent and inactive on the issue. Federal retirees want action.

We recommend starting with initiatives that combine education and awareness with intergenerational interaction, as research shows these hold the most promise for changing ageist attitudes. We also agree with two recommendations from the WHO: first, to improve data and research to better understand ageism and how to end it; and second, to build a movement to change the narrative around age and aging.

A good start for the latter would be for Canada to commit to advancing the work at the UN and getting the UN to adopt the aforementioned convention. Having effective and empowered independent seniors’ advocates at the provincial level and a federal seniors’ ombudsman are two other concrete suggestions.

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Older Canadians have had enough. We need to call out ageism when we see it, and we need concerted government action to support these efforts. We need a fundamental shift in perspective to eliminate stereotypes that older people are a weak, dependent and non-contributory part of society.

Like many developed countries, Canada has an aging population. At the 2021 census, more than 861,000 people were 85 and over. By 2046, that number could triple to almost 2.5 million. This means that the number of people affected by ageism is also increasing. There’s no better time to address it and put an end to it.

Anthony Pizino is the CEO of the National Association of Federal Retirees.

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