Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I appreciate the opportunity to address this committee on behalf of the Public Health Agency. I'm pleased to spend this time speaking to you about healthy aging and more specifically the issues of inclusion and quality of life for seniors from a public health perspective.
I would like to start off by providing some context regarding the nature of the work that we do at the Public Health Agency. Our mandate is to promote and protect the health of Canadians, including seniors, by supporting interventions that strengthen protective factors and promote healthy living. Promoting protective factors such as individual and community resilience and supportive environments, or working upstream, as we call it in public health, can prevent illness and injury, mitigate the impact of existing health conditions, increase independence, and improve quality of life.
I hope my remarks will demonstrate that at the federal level we are able to promote healthy aging by facilitating collaboration across sectors, disciplines, and professions; conducting surveillance, data collection, and analysis of the factors that influence healthy aging; and disseminating this information broadly.
Starting off with the current picture for seniors, the fact that Canadians are living longer is a public health triumph, but the aging population also means that the number of people living with chronic conditions is expected to increase. Currently 80% of Canadians over the age of 65 have at least one chronic health condition. For example, we know that the number of Canadians living with dementia is expected to increase in future decades. Two out of every three Canadians currently know someone with dementia.
Falls have significant physical and mental health consequences for older Canadians and families and threaten independent living. In Canada, 20% to 30% of seniors experience at least one fall each year, with an estimated cost of $3.4 billion annually. Falls are the leading cause of older adult traumatic brain injury.
Elder abuse is a serious issue that affects the lives of Canadian seniors and their families and is associated with significant morbidity and premature mortality. An estimated 8.2% of older Canadians experience some form of psychological, physical, sexual, or financial abuse or neglect.
While many seniors maintain good mental health, mental illnesses in later life often occur within the context of life transitions, losses, chronic illness, disability, or social isolation. Almost one in four seniors will be affected by a mental illness during their lifetime.
I'll turn now to the healthy aging investments and initiatives being led by the Public Health Agency. The first area I would like to cover is surveillance of major chronic diseases and factors related to healthy aging. The Canadian chronic disease surveillance system, or CCDSS, is a collaborative network of provincial and territorial surveillance systems led by the Public Health Agency. The CCDSS currently collects data on a range of factors, including dementia, diabetes, hypertension, mental illness overall, mood and anxiety disorders, and arthritis.
In general, this data can be used to report national estimates and trends over time of incidence, which is the number of new cases, and prevalence, the proportion of the population having the disease. Reliable data through ongoing surveillance supports decision-making about where targeted investments may be needed.
The second area of focus involves working closely with provinces, territories, and other stakeholders to help communities become more age friendly. The age-friendly communities initiative focuses on multiple aspects of community life, including transportation, housing, social participation, and inclusion. An age-friendly community recognizes that seniors have a wide range of skills and abilities, respects their decisions and lifestyle choices, and supports seniors who are vulnerable. In Canada this initiative has strengthened social inclusion in over 1,000 communities by bringing together seniors, caregivers, governments, and other stakeholders to help seniors remain active, engaged, and healthy, both physically and mentally, in their communities.
In the area of dementia, our investments focus on building partnerships to accelerate innovative solutions to delay the onset of dementia, improve the quality of life of Canadians affected by dementia, and support independent living.
For example, we are providing $42 million over five years to Baycrest Health Sciences for the Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation. We have developed the first national surveillance data on dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. Our investments in surveillance contribute to our understanding of risk reduction, early detection and diagnosis, and effective treatment of dementia. These actions, coupled with efforts to promote awareness and reduce stigma, for example through Dementia Friends Canada, can help reduce the impact of dementia on society and support our aging population.
In the area of injury prevention, we play a critical role in raising public awareness of the risk factors and determinants contributing to seniors' falls. We achieve this through continued investment in surveillance that helps to provide national-level data and evidence-based information on seniors' falls. We have been an active partner in both the Fall Prevention Month collaborative and the biannual National Fall Prevention Conference.
Abuse of older adults usually happens within the family, but it can occur at the hands of anyone in a position of trust or power. Our efforts in the area of elder abuse have focused on developing tools and resources to raise awareness among the general public and health professionals. For example, in collaboration with Justice Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada, we contributed to the federal elder abuse initiative through the development of “It's Not Right! - Neighbours, Friends and Families for Older Adults”, a series of brochures that we continue to promote. We are also currently supporting the collection of elder abuse data as part of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging, to augment the evidence base.
Finally, with respect to seniors' mental health, we work with partners to build evidence, share knowledge, raise awareness, and reduce stigma. To give you an example, we provided funding to the Canadian Coalition for Seniors' Mental Health, in collaboration with Shoppers Drug Mart, to develop resources for seniors and their families on issues such as depression and suicide prevention.
Through this brief presentation, I hope that I have demonstrated how our public health initiatives and investments have contributed to both improving seniors' health, and promoting their inclusion and quality of life. We look forward to continuing to work with our federal partners and other stakeholders on the social, economic, and physical determinants that affect the health and well-being of Canadian seniors.
Thank you for your attention and for the time you're dedicating to this topic. I would be pleased to answer any questions.