This October 1st marks the 30th anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons. This year, as we contend with the ongoing upheaval caused by the COVID-19 global health crisis, we must also bear witness to the suffering caused by the long-standing failures of our seniors’ care system.
Seniors have suffered the greatest impact of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, and Alberta is no exception. To date 97% of COVID-related deaths have been Albertans aged 60 or older, including 165 residents in continuing care. In July, the Royal Society of Canada found that 81% of COVID-19 deaths nationwide were residents of long-term care homes—a rate far outpacing other countries. Further, the worst impacts have occurred in for-profit facilities, which have been found to have had “more extensive outbreaks and more deaths” than public facilities. COVID-19 has exposed the many shortcomings of our seniors’ care system, borne of decades of privatization and the inequity that perpetual cost-cutting has wrought. What we are seeing now was decades in the making.
Carol Wodak of the Seniors’ Action and Liaison team explained the ramifications of this constant attack on seniors’ care: “80% of COVID-19 deaths were seniors in care facilities. They died, not because of their age, but because their care and accommodation were unsafe. Mr. Kenney’s insistence that their average age was 83, whereas average life expectancy is 82 is just blaming the victims. At age 80, StatsCan tells me I can expect to live another 10 years.”
It is not enough to merely mark a day on the calendar, or make disingenuous and empty recognitions of the invaluable contributions that seniors have made. Today, we want to make it very clear that we, as a province, have been negligent in the care of our seniors, as evidenced by the Premier’s callous remarks. Seniors deserve better.