Support seniors' independent living

By Candace Skrapek, The StarPhoenix October 4, 2013 - The story, Seniors strategy needed to dodge hospital bottlenecks (SP, Sept. 27), reported that recent bed capacity challenges facing the Saskatoon Health Region largely were the result of difficulty in transferring into appropriate community facilities those patients who require long-term care.

In reality, overcrowding in emergency departments caused by a lack of long-term care spaces for older adults is just one of many challenges that our community will face as our population ages and we have increasing numbers of people over the age of 65. Currently a large gap exists between policies, programs and services, and what is required by older adults to age successfully - in particular, policies that provide accessible and affordable services.

The health region's call for a seniors' care strategy is an important step toward providing appropriate care for older adults who have chronic health conditions. Yet, it is only one of many strategies that governments must implement to address the needs of an aging population.

Enhancing the quality of life, and the health and independence of older adults through actions such as establishing "aging in place" supports, developing more affordable and accessible housing, supporting expanded home care and home modification options are examples of things that enable older adults to remain independent for as long as possible.

These actions acknowledge older adults as active contributors to their own well-being and to their community. Ninety per cent of older adults live independently, and want to "age in place'' by spending their life in their own home. Designing and implementing the correct services, developed through engagement with older adults, not only leads to a good quality of life but is also sound economic policy.

The Saskatoon Council on Aging's vision of "Positive Aging for All" reflects the view of a community that enables healthy, positive aging of all citizens and enhances the agefriendliness of our city.

Skrapek is past board chair of the Saskatoon Council on Aging and co chair of Age-friendly Saskatoon Initiative.

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