Local seniors bend minister’s ear on issues facing elderly

Local seniors bend minister’s ear on issues facing elderly

Federal Minister for Seniors Filomena Tassi, left, and St. Catharines MP Chris Bittle listen as Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 124 president Al Howse speaks at a roundtable event on seniors issues in Niagara-on-the-Lake which took place Friday at the legion hall on King Street. – Richard Hutton , Metroland

While the installation of a new floor may seem mundane, it has meant a world of difference to the legion in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

And members of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 124 were proud to show off the new floor to Filomena Tassi, the federal government’s Minister for Seniors, as she stopped in Niagara-on-the-Lake Friday as a part of her cross-Canada tour to hear from seniors about issues they face.

Tassi was accompanied by St. Catharines MP Chris Bittle and Niagara Centre MP Vance Badawey.

“The old floor used to be part carpet, part rug and part linoleum,” branch president Al Howse said. “Now it’s a beautiful floor so we can rent out the hall. It has helped us bring the branch together.”

Hearing about what the floor replacement, which was funded from the federal government’s New Horizons program, has meant to the legion was music to Tassi’s ears.

“One of the things about New Horizons that’s important is to combat isolation, to get seniors active and provide opportunities for mentorships,” Tassi said.

Bittle added: “To hear what this floor is doing, it’s an incredible space to get active, stay active and come together.”

While having the new floor is nice, Howse said more needs to be done.

“Because this is on the second floor, we’re going to need an elevator. Accessibility is a great problem we have here,” he said. “And for the community in general.”

Tassi said the government holds a similar view.

“We want places to be more accessible. We realize there needs to be more engagement for seniors.”

Since coming into power in 2015, the Trudeau Liberals enacted several measures to help seniors, Tassi said. Rollbacks in the qualification age for Old Age Pension (OAP) and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) from 67 to 65 have helped prevent 100,000 seniors from living below the poverty line. An increase of the GIS to $947 has helped a further 57,000 people.

“Also, in our national housing strategy, seniors will be included,” Tassi said.

That plan will see the government invest $40 billion over 10 years to address affordable housing needs.

Some of the other concerns brought up at the meeting included pensions — particularly companies not honouring their obligations and health care.

On pensions, Tassi said the problem is decades old and has no easy fix.

“We don’t want to see senior executives getting bonuses while pensions are reduced,” she said. “There isn’t a quick fix for it. We need to consult with experts and get sound advice when we move forward.”

She added that improvements to the Canada Pension Plan will provide more income to seniors in the future.

“The government is forward thinking,” she said.

Resident Ray Johns, meanwhile, wanted to know the government’s plans for health care.

“In this town, it isn’t great,” he said. “I just turned 65 and I am waiting to have some tests and it won’t be until January. And I have to go to Hamilton to have them.”

Tassi said the federal government is working in partnership with the provinces, adding a meeting with Ontario Premier Doug Ford would happen sometime in the fall.

“We’ll be making note of all the issues.”

Carma Pollack from Hospice Niagara said while her organization offers a 10-bed hospice, more could be done to help aging seniors spend their final days at home.

“Most people want to be at home and we want to support them as well,” she said.

She also would like to see more to educate people about just what palliative care is.

Tassi said that there were ways to tap into funding for education, particularly the New Horizons program.

Source: St. Catharines Standard