Decades of promises to improve the quality of life of elderly Canadians have gone unfulfilled. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the ugly truth.

By Christina FrangouNovember 17, 2020

This has been a year of realizing that what we thought was solid ground beneath our collective feet was in fact a cliff that would crumble away with just a bit of natural erosion or one sharp blow. We reflected on 2020 to find truths, exploded. This is one of them. Read more about the year that changed everything »

“You are a waste of space,” a nurse told 88-year-old Mary Wilton in the summer of 2019 after the octogenarian, who suffers from Parkinson’s, vomited while receiving care in a hospital near Toronto.

Today, Wilton’s daughter Alison cries as she talks about the day her mother phoned to tell her about the encounter. She calls it one of many examples of age discrimination that her mother has faced over the last decade as her health worsened. The ageism comes not only in the form of callous comments but as unaffordable housing, insufficient home care, wait lists for long-term care and a lack of support for family caregivers—all of which existed prior to the pandemic but worsened over 2020, says Wilton. “People say, ‘Well, they’re old anyway.’ ”

For decades, one Canadian government after another has made promises to Canada’s older adults to increase their access to support and improve the quality of their lives. In 2004, Ontario’s minister of health and long-term care, George Smitherman, said: “We need to change the culture of long-term care in this province.” In 2014, Canada’s minister of state for seniors, Alice Wong, said: “The government of Canada is committed to ensuring a high quality of life for seniors.” In 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “We’re making sure [seniors] have the support they need.”

But the reality of 2020 is that Canada’s seniors are suffering disproportionately, and it’s because these promises have gone unfulfilled. The proof is in the pandemic numbers: by the summer, over 80 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths in Canada occurred in nursing and retirement home settings—nearly twice the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average, even though Canada’s total COVID-19 mortality rate was comparatively lower. 

To read more click on: The year of the pandemic has busted the myth that Canada values its seniors

OUR EDITORIAL: Looking at truths, exploded