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Trends in ageing population in Canada

Most communities that are left out in Canadian medical care especially in ageing populations are immigrant communities. In Canada, 17% of the total population is 65 years or older. There are many sociological challenges that arise in ageing population, the main one being how do we provide elders with satisfactory services especially given the fact that life expectancy is gradually increasing. We will discuss this with a case study of a care home in Toronto Canada. The case study aimed to measure perceived quality of life, which was measured by variables like goals, expectations, standards and concerns. The care home faired really well with regards to environment. The residents explained that the environment was homelike and the residents felt accepted especially since the staff was really nice and caring. In terms of connectedness, there are mixed results. The case study mentioned that the care home provides a lot of activities for the residents. The residents are also able to gain a lot of knowledge on healthy living. There is access to salon services, library, and shopping mall. However, there was extremely limited socialization between ethnicities due to language barriers. The case study also noted basic gaps within the care home services. The most obvious gaps were 1) no affordable meal plans, 2) no onsite medical care and 3) lack of capacity development.

  1. No affordable meal plan: The residents are likelier to fall sick and hence, the days they do fall sick, they are unable to cook for themselves. Hence, it would be more appropriate to offer meal plans so that the residents are not skipping meals.
  2. No onsite medical care: The research mentioned that there was no onsite medical care which is a cause of concern since residents require daily attention
  3. Lack of capacity development: The research mentioned that there were not a lot of resources available at the residence. The residents need more variety in terms of activities. The residents also mentioned that feelings of isolation and loneliness were prominent.  Residents also mentioned that they couldn’t talk to other residents of different ethnicities because of the language barriers. Hence, more manpower is needed in order to organize social activities for the residents.

The questions revolve around improving quality of life of elders in the residence and would ethnic specific residence lead to better quality of life? In my opinion, Canada’s ethnic nursing homes really just highlight failure in Canada’s multiculturalism. There is a huge need for improving cultural competency instead of building ethnic-specific homes. Making the elderly feel comfortable only with other of their identity is more than just the issue of language. I understand why ethnic specific housing would be more desirable by the elderly; Italian long term residence has a restaurant with an extensive wine list and similarly, Greek long term residence in Toronto host traditional dances, organize a yearly petting zoo, and have backgammon. This raises concerns around social cohesion in the country, inequality and hostility against other cultures. The current system needs to build ethnic specific needs to those who are in long term care. Culturally sensitive care and elder socialization is vital to quality of life of the elderly. Canadian long care homes need to look beyond language barriers and cater to culture shock, ethnic, cultural and religious needs, psychological and social well being of the elderly.  

By

Miha Alam

( University of Waterloo)