Most governments all over the world have social policies that help support and overcome the weaknesses of the major social organizations of the nation, especially the disabled, the youth and the elderly. When it come to the quality of life of senior people, some aspects comes into play. These are health status, income security, education and employment and, the perception of older people to social connectedness.
According to statistics, the Canadian population is rapidly aging. Older people makeup a rapidly growing population and, this trend is expected to go on for some time since there is improved life expectancy and, the baby boom generation is also aging (Curtis, 2000). By 2011, there were an estimated 5.0 million Canadians who were 65 years of age and above. Future progressions indicate that this population is going to double in the next quarter of a century. That means that the people above 65 years will be about one in every four Canadians (“Canadians in Context”, n.d.).
The Canadian social assistance has shown indicators of success in the recent past. The daily needs of an aging population are undergoing massive transformations. The aging population, people mostly above 65 years of age, has majorly impacted on the way other citizens take part in contributing to the economic and social life of their communities.
An aging population always has demands on the social structures of any country and, Canada is not an exception. According to sociologists, social structure relates to a moderately steady pattern of social relations (Curtis, 2002). Under this definition, the education system, the health care system and the family all fit. As the society ages, these structures will change in that there will exist three- and four- tier families in the Canadian society. Majority of people will become grandparents while still in their careers actively. The education system, especially higher education, will consist of older students. These older students will force the education system to come up with flexible schedules that will meet their needs. The teaching methods and, courses offered will also be adjusted to fit their needs. Moreover, the health care system will also undergo transformations. Currently, the Canadian health system is well adapted to treating short term illnesses, but, the aging population tends to suffer from more chronic sicknesses such as hearing problems, arthritis and diabetes (Graham, 2012). The system will have to adapt to ways of preventing such illnesses.
Canada has done well in ensuring that seniors in the community get access to housing. Housing is a very critical factor for the aging people. This has led the government to work towards ensuring that there is a wide range of houses the elderly people can choose. The houses available to the elderly are cheap, safe and very adequate. Elderly people prefer to have permanent dwelling places and, not temporary ones where some time they will be compelled to move. The choice of housing for the elderly also ensures that they establish stable friendships and other societal ties. Additionally, the houses should be located in well planned areas so that the seniors get easy access to health facilities, recreational amenities and, other necessary services. Finally, well-planned houses consider the safety and, health needs of the seniors and, this is a major factor in designing better and, safer housing for the elderly.
Seniors also need to feel a sense of social connectedness and, civic engagement. It will make a huge impact on their quality of life. Elderly people should not live alone. In the Western culture, the ability to live alone is interpreted as being independent, but aging people who live alone face higher risks of becoming socially isolated. Solitude will increase chances of depression. Being socially isolated may result in incidences of acute malnutrition. The main reason for this may be attributed to the fact that people living in solitude may not enjoy their meals alone, or make good diet choices. Some may resort to just taking drinking and snacks. Some may not even know how to cook. Such situations pose a serious health risk. To ensure civic engagement among seniors, the government has encouraged them to take more voluntary work. In fact, among the many volunteers in Canada, the elderly are the most. Volunteerism enables the seniors to give back to the community and, feel that they play a part in making the society better despite their old age.
Canada has managed to come up with various policies for social security for the elderly people. The social security covers an extensive range of programs that handle education, health, unemployment, and child and, family assistance, together with the disabled people, old people and the survivor benefits programs.
Canada has come up with a system called the Canada’s Public Pensions System. Under this system, there is the CPP (Canada Pension Plan). The CPP was a scheme that was designed to provide pension and, benefits when a person died, retired or became disabled. It was established in 1966 and has paid three kinds of benefits since late 1967 (Rice & Prince, 2000). The three major benefits that it considers including survivor benefits (consists of children’s benefits, survivors’ benefits, and death benefits); disability benefits (composed of benefits given to disabled people who made contributions and their dependents); and, retirement pensions. Under CPP, there is the Retirement pension which provides monthly pensions to Canadians who are eligible. For one to qualify for it, he or she must have worked in Canada and made contributions while working towards the same.
Another policy that Canada developed is called the Old Age Security (OAS). It is available for all Canadians above 65 years who meet specific requirements. This pension gets its funding from the revenues of the government. People do not pay for it directly while in employment. It is not similar to CPP since it does not require one to have been employed or, the person applying for it needs not to have retired from employment (Rice & Prince, 2000). This pension scheme has been of great significance to the aging population and, the general public, as well. One of the major benefits is that if you reside in Canada and, your income is low, OAS can be added to your pension. Another benefit for the seniors is that when you are 60-64 years old, and your life partner is getting the OAS pension, you also qualify to receive it. Additionally, senior widowed citizens are also eligible for this benefit.
Another scheme the Canadian government has implemented to cater for the needs of an aging population is the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). The pension majorly provides a monthly benefit that is non-taxed to people who also receive Old Age Security (Rice & Prince, 2000). This scheme is available to people who are legally residing in Canada, people who get OAS pension; and, people whose annual income is less than the maximum yearly income.
With the rapidly increasing population of the elderly people, it is evident that the pension schemes available may not be enough to cater for all their needs, and, meet their expectations. The Canadian government has institutionalized nursing homes for the elderly people. Nursing homes all over Canada have become critical components of the general healthcare system, especially for the aging population (Rice & Prince, 2000). The government has used these nursing homes to serve the seniors. These seniors may not necessarily need to be in a hospital but, they need a level of care that some of them cannot achieve owing to their level of income, which are majorly pensions. An estimated majority of people living in these nursing homes are elderly people who are faced with many challenges such as problems with movement, multiple chronic illnesses, memory lapses and incontinence. Some of them are completely dependent on basic services provided by the nursing homes such as eating and toileting (Graham, 2012).
The existence of these nursing homes is a clear indication that the pension system of Canada faces a myriad of challenges. For instance, the CPP’s major shortfall is that it pays poorly. CPP is only meant to cater for those whose incomes are below the average industrial wage in Canada. The implication is that majority of middle income earners are left out. When these people come of age and retire, they will not access CPP. As a result, they have to rely on other pension schemes. These paybacks are lowest in Canada, as compared to other developed nations. Additionally, some people who work in the private sector get into private pension schemes (Rice, 2000). Some of these private entities are unscrupulous and may not remit monthly pensions once a person retires. Hence, it poses a major threat to the livelihoods of the elderly people affected.
For Canada to improve on its social welfare, many improvements need to be made. Some of the remedies that have been floated require that the drop-out years for those who are contributing to the CPP should be increased. It will mean that the percentage contribution will increase thereby ensuring an increase in future pension. Additionally, owing to the rising cost of living, the Canadian government should always adjust the CPP benefits to mirror the growing cost of living. Although these may not be the ultimate solutions to the various pension policies offered by the Canadian government, they may go a long way in improving the quality of life of its aging population.
Overall, the social, health and, economic concerns of the aging population has proved to be a thorny issue in most countries globally. The aging population is an important part of any country since it portrays a vital reflection on the societies’ culture. An economy with people with longer lives is an indication of development.
Canadians in Context - Aging Population. (n.d.). / Indicators of Well-being in Canada. Retrieved April 9, 2014, from http://www4.hrsdc.gc.ca/?iid=33
Curtis, B. (2002). The politics of population state formation, statistics, and the census of Canada, 1840-1875. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Rice, J. J., & Prince, M. J. (2000). Changing politics of Canadian social policy. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Graham, J., Swift, K., & Delaney, R. (2012). Canadian Social Policy: An Introduction. Scarborough, Ont: Prentice Hall Allyn and Bacon Canada.