Chief Policy Officer, Canadian Association for Retired Persons (CARP)
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted critical issues affecting seniors’ care, health, and safety, and invites us to build a better future.
The Canadian Association for Retired Persons (CARP) is Canada’s largest organization advocating for older adults. CARP brings together communities who care about issues affecting older adults, fights to make Canada a great place to age, and pushes for changes to public policy that improve the lives of seniors. The organization has over 320,000 members, represented in every province and territory, and regional chapters across the country. Its focuses are advocacy, benefits for its members, and community engagement.
“Longevity is one of the greatest achievements of the last century. Yet, all too often, opportunities to help older Canadians age well are missed,” says Marissa Lennox, CARP’s Chief Policy Officer. “Long-term care is chronically underfunded, home care services often fall short, Canada’s health care system hasn’t kept pace with evolving needs, pensioners’ financial security remains at risk, and mandatory RRIF (registered retirement income fund) withdrawals are out of sync with life expectancies and time spent in retirement. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these issues, making them more urgent than ever.”
Long-term care is chronically underfunded.Marissa Lennox, CARP’s Chief Policy Officer
Seniors’ issues front and centre
“Seniors’ advocacy is now at the forefront as the pandemic has brought attention to seniors’ vulnerability in long-term care as well as around their neighbourhoods,” says Ramona Kaptyn, President of the CARP White Rock/Surrey Chapter in BC and Member of the CARP Board of Directors. Some of the issues highlighted include a lack of access to community resources such as food banks, the dismal state of long-term care facilities in Canada, lack of access to medical services, retirement savings security, and the mental health effects of social isolation.
Another major issue is the lack of government funding for high-dose flu vaccines, which CARP is advocating be made free and accessible for all seniors. The vaccine is more effective in protecting older adults from seasonal influenza, which often causes hospitalization in older patients and, in extreme cases, can be fatal. “If we don’t protect our most vulnerable population, a second wave of COVID-19 will hugely impact seniors whose defences have been reduced because they’ve already contracted the seasonal flu,” says Bill VanGorder, Senior Spokesperson of the CARP Nova Scotia Chapter and Member of the CARP Board of Directors.
Standing up for seniors
As one of Canada’s most powerful demographics, older adults have the collective strength to change the direction of the public policy that governs us all — a power that CARP encourages them to put to use. “Don’t hold back,” stresses VanGorder. “Follow the issues that come from all levels of CARP. We must reset the direction on health care and long-term care in Canada by working together.”
“The more members we have, the louder our voice,” says Kaptyn. When asked why now is the time to get involved in advocacy, her message is clear: “As the saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. CARP always listens and we will take your concerns to all levels of government.”