Evidence of meeting #132 for Status of Women in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was seniors.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jean Holden  Advisory Board Member, Hearing Health Alliance of Canada
Valerie Spino  Advisory Board Member, Hearing Health Alliance of Canada
Robert Roehle  President, Pembina Active Living (55+)
Alanna Jones  Executive Director, Pembina Active Living (55+)
Bob Bratina  Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, Lib.
Irene Mathyssen  London—Fanshawe, NDP
Sonia Sidhu  Brampton South, Lib.
K. Kellie Leitch  Simcoe—Grey, CPC
Lori Weeks  Associate Professor, School of Nursing, Dalhousie University
Tania Dick  Vancouver Island Representative, British Columbia, First Nations Health Council

9:20 a.m.

Executive Director, Pembina Active Living (55+)

Alanna Jones

We see mostly women at the centre. We're working hard to encourage the men to come out. We find that mostly the men are engaged at the leadership level and the women are coming out for the programs.

I think certainly transportation is a big one. We're finding that a lot of people, as they age and are no longer able to drive, become more reluctant to get out to whatever it is we're doing. Of course that leads to them spending more and more time at home and becoming isolated, and loneliness becomes a problem. I think transportation is a huge issue right across our province. That's probably one of the biggest ones, along with affordability of programming.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

What about access to housing and accessibility?

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

You have 15 seconds for a brief answer.

9:20 a.m.

Executive Director, Pembina Active Living (55+)

Alanna Jones

It's not something we address at the senior centre. Again, we don't have a centre. We don't have people milling about, chatting and talking. We have programs in satellite locations where instructors are out and people are going to them. I have not personally been dealing with housing at all.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

We'll go to Irene Mathyssen for seven minutes.

9:20 a.m.

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, NDP

Thank you for being here. Thank you for what you do.

At one point I was a seniors critic. One of the realities I discovered in my research was that seniors are not valued as they should be. You very clearly value the seniors of our various communities, and as was pointed out, the population will double over the next 20 or so years and they will be 25% of the population that we have to take care of because they took care of us and they're important.

There's a whole range of things that I want to ask about. You described the catchment area for PAL (55+) as quite extensive and you said that transportation has been identified as a significant problem. Of course a lot of seniors are intimidated by driving because driving is more complex than it ever was. What would you like to happen in terms of resolving the transportation issue? Is it more public transit? Is it funding for vehicles, for buses?

9:20 a.m.

Executive Director, Pembina Active Living (55+)

Alanna Jones

I'm thinking now of one of our board members, Bob, who is transitioning from driving himself. He has a scooter, so he's really mobile. Of course, our weather is a challenge for him to be able to use that throughout the year. The other issue that we face is the street cleaning.

For some, mobility and accessibility issues are a concern. Even if someone is comfortable taking public transportation, or even Handi-Transit, it's often difficult just to get to the bus because of those issues.

We address the issue through some programming. We have offered older adult driving courses several times. Also, public transit has come out to help older adults understand the public transit system, such as the different technologies now on the bus—how it can go down and up.

Educating older adults is also an important way of addressing the issue so that they know what their options are. In Manitoba, we have the Transportation Options Network for Seniors, which is actively looking at this issue on a city-wide level. Even with the dedicated group of people working on it, it still remains a challenge.

9:25 a.m.

London—Fanshawe, NDP

Irene Mathyssen

The whole issue of funding was discussed. You talked about membership fees and, of course, the fact that membership fees can eliminate quite a significant group of people because they just can't afford it. I am interested in what you had to say in regard to federal funding.

Mr. Roehle, did I understand that you had received some? Is it program funding or is it core funding? Would core funding make a difference in terms of the operations of all the things you do?

9:25 a.m.

President, Pembina Active Living (55+)

Robert Roehle

Certainly core funding would make a difference if it was ongoing. We've been depending largely on project funding. The New Horizons grant that we recently got is really an outreach grant. We want to outreach to new Canadians, the indigenous population, the rainbow population and so on. At the moment, we're only offering space and time for two and a half days a week. Our staff is part time. We really should be operating at least five days a week.

9:25 a.m.

London—Fanshawe, NDP

Irene Mathyssen

The time that is consumed by finding these little bits and pieces could go into programming and services much more effectively than worrying about project funding.

There was some discussion about hearing loss exacerbating cognitive ability. We're hearing more and more about the reality of dementia and Alzheimer's. That's something that every family faces in one way or another.

We've been talking about research and the need for research into these significant issues. Is that something that's come across your desk or is within your experience?

9:25 a.m.

Advisory Board Member, Hearing Health Alliance of Canada

Jean Holden

Absolutely. Quite a lot of research is going on with trying to understand the relationship between hearing loss and dementia. We know that there are some published, peer-reviewed, well-designed studies that have linked cognitive decline to dementia, but there's much more work that needs to be done to truly understand the relationship between hearing loss, cognitive decline and dementia.

There's a lot of work going on in Canada and other major centres in the world to try to understand the function of the brain and what is happening in those relationships.

There are several theories. One is that with cognitive decline and hearing loss, you have an overload of the brain attempting to compensate for the signals that aren't coming in. There are theories that relate to functions in the brain slowly declining and dying off because they're not being exercised, just like exercising the body.

Those are the kinds of areas they're looking at. They're looking at relationships with causality for hearing loss and causality for dementia and how they link together. It is definitely on our radar and it's one of the top areas of research.

9:25 a.m.

London—Fanshawe, NDP

Irene Mathyssen

We've talked about the impact of lack of funding on individuals and the community. I wonder if you've had the chance to look at the impact on extended family.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

That's actually your time.

Can you give a really quick answer?

9:25 a.m.

Advisory Board Member, Hearing Health Alliance of Canada

Jean Holden

A very quick answer is that yes, it creates a great deal of stress with extended family, communities and caregivers, and you can imagine that leads to depression and other challenges as well.

9:25 a.m.

London—Fanshawe, NDP

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

We're now going to move to Sonia Sidhu for seven minutes.

9:25 a.m.

Sonia Sidhu Brampton South, Lib.

Thank you all for being here. It is great testimony.

I used to live in Winnipeg, close to Pembina Highway. Congratulations on your 10th anniversary, and thank you for serving our seniors.

I've heard that there's a stigma out there, and it takes seven to 10 years to determine if a senior has a loss of cognitive ability. How can we raise awareness so people can find out about it when they are having this problem?

9:30 a.m.

Advisory Board Member, Hearing Health Alliance of Canada

Jean Holden

We need to mount some very strong public awareness campaigns. Get it out there everywhere, so that families who support seniors and the seniors themselves understand that hearing loss is a major issue and it should not be considered a terrible thing as you age.

There is a stigma. People associate hearing loss with what happens to you when you're a senior, and they don't want to admit that they're getting older. Some of the people we've interviewed in our awareness-building admit that they themselves have a hearing loss. It impacts their daily activities and ability to continue with their work, and they don't want to admit it to their colleagues. They don't want to address it.

This is an issue. Also, because of the gradual hearing loss, people don't really know that over the years they've changed activities to compensate for their hearing loss. They don't realize that they're challenging people around them and that they're losing out and becoming more and more isolated. It's a gradual process, so there are issues around that.

We need to mount a public campaign.

We also find that in the health care system itself, people in hospitals—doctors, nurses, physiotherapists—don't understand that the patient they're working with doesn't understand a thing they're saying. We've had examples of people who were sent to a specialist to be assessed for dementia, and they didn't have a problem with anything else but their hearing. They corrected the hearing, and gradually those people were able to connect and live healthier lives.

February 26th, 2019 / 9:30 a.m.

Brampton South, Lib.

Sonia Sidhu

Is there any way that we can collect central data and send it to them? Is there any centre where you are collecting data?

9:30 a.m.

Advisory Board Member, Hearing Health Alliance of Canada

Jean Holden

We have some studies going on.

There is the “Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging”. I'm sure you know about this study. We were fortunate enough to encourage them to include not only survey analysis but audiometric testing. We've had one paper published, and we are on the cusp of having three additional papers published on the characteristics of people with hearing loss in Canada. This study involves 50,000 Canadians over the age of 45 at onset, and the evaluation is done every three years.

That data is just about to come out.

We have literature out there for Canadians from other jurisdictions, such as the U.K., the United States and Australia, to help us to convey the message that this is a serious issue with a serious impact.

9:30 a.m.

Brampton South, Lib.

Sonia Sidhu

Do you know of any other country that is doing a terrific job on this?

9:30 a.m.

Advisory Board Member, Hearing Health Alliance of Canada

Jean Holden

We're all struggling.

Australia pays for every single service and device for seniors in their country. In the U.K., they do that also. The U.K.—to discuss a common issue here—has appointed a minister for loneliness, because it's a huge issue. Hearing loss leads to that, as does the lack of activity.

9:30 a.m.

Brampton South, Lib.

Sonia Sidhu

Thank you.

My next question is for Mr. Roehle. Do you have a seniors' service for language barriers?

9:30 a.m.

President, Pembina Active Living (55+)

Robert Roehle

No, we don't, and we really haven't connected all that well with people who speak a different language. That is one of the things we want to address with this grant. We want to figure out how to reach new Canadians, for example, and people who speak a different language, and to somehow have programs that reflect their cultures.