Seniors

Summary of Public Consultations on the Strategy

Consultations with stakeholders took place between May 24 and October 31, 2012. Toronto's residents had the opportunity to submit their suggestions and concerns using a consultation workbook. Feedback from this consultation shaped the development of The Toronto Seniors Strategy.

The consultation workbook was translated into 11 languages and was distributed online through City networks, community-based organizations and the Toronto Seniors' Forum.

"There has to be more support put in place to assist seniors in remaining in their own homes."

"[It's] important not to forget that a large majority of older adults are capable, active, independent and a resource to the community. We are part of the solution as well as the 'problem.'"

"My goal and that of most seniors whom I know is to be able to stay in my home and neighbourhood and be as independent as possible for as long as possible. For this, I need home support, good health and the ability to get around."

In total, 524 completed workbooks were submitted. Some workbooks were completed by individuals, but many were also completed by groups working and talking together.

Respondents' comments can be grouped into two main perspectives. Some comments emphasized the need for income and social supports to assist people as they grow older. In particular, many emphasized the need to serve the most marginalized and vulnerable members of the older adult population. Other respondents challenged existing stereotypes by arguing that older adults are still active, healthy, and capable of contributing to their communities.


Methodology

Responses: Languages: Distribution:
524 completed workbooks
Workbook translated into Chinese, Farsi, French, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Tamil, and Urdu
Paper copies distributed to libraries, seniors-serving organizations, and community health centres. City of Toronto website.

Themes & Priorities

The consultation workbook asked respondents to identify their priorities from a list of seven different themes. Of these, almost three-quarters of respondents identified health, housing, or transportation as one of their top three priorities (Figure 3.1).

Respondents mentioned that the themes were all important. Many commented that the themes were interconnected and that improving services in one area inevitably had an impact on services in other areas. Overall, 92% of respondents who answered the question indicated that at least one of "these themes represent [their] concerns."

Click on graphs for larger versions

Themes & Priorities
Figure 3.1
Respondents were asked to "circle your top 3 priorities." This graph shows how often each theme was mentioned.


"All of these are important needs in most seniors' lives... each of these are essential for a seniors strategy."


Primary Concerns

For each theme, respondents tended to identify very specific, personal issues they care about, as opposed to broad comments about service delivery. For example, some individuals who commented on housing highlighted a specific issue within their housing unit.

The Seniors Strategy
Consultation Workbook cover

Despite the personal nature of the responses, there were clear priorities under each of the seven program areas, summarized in Table 3.1.

Theme     Primary Concern Health Housing Transportation Recreation & Community Programs (including Libraries) Safety & Security Accessibility Civic Engagement
  • Mental health & isolation
  • Health promotion & disease prevention
  • Affordable dental, eye care, prescription medications
  • Aging in place, staying independent at home
  • Developing more home and community care services
  • Supporting long-term care homes
  • Transit accessibility
  • Cost of transportation
  • Transportation safety
  • Costs of programs
  • Opportunities to network and socialize
  • Education and classes for seniors
  • Elder abuse
  • Fear of crime
  • Physical safety
  • Physical accessibility
  • Language accessibility
  • Promoting greater consultation and inclusion in the process
  • Avoiding the segregation of older residents

Other Comments

Participants did not limit their comments to the prescribed themes. Three other broad themes also emerged from the consultation workbook.

Communications & Information

"Who can seniors contact if they need help? Is there someone in charge of 'Seniors' Affairs?'"

Respondents who commented on the communication of services focused primarily on a lack of knowledge about what services were already available for older Torontonians. Some attributed this to a lack of promotion. Others linked the lack of awareness of services to the lack of a single unified contact point to help navigate the services available to them. Many also highlighted the need to promote services in languages other than English, and to avoid relying heavily on websites as a sole source of information.

Service Levels

"How can the city support seniors on very fixed incomes?"

Service levels were also raised as an issue as part of a broader concern for older Torontonians with low incomes. Respondents commenting on service levels focused on a lack of available space in programs, the need for facilities and meeting spaces to engage with other older adults, and the high costs associated with travelling to and accessing services.

Diversity & Respect

"Seniors do not want to be segregated. We want to be included as an important part of the city. We want to contribute making this a better city."

Comments related to ensuring respect for older persons focused on recognizing the contributions of the full diversity of older Torontonians, including newcomers, people with disabilities, and people from all cultural backgrounds. Respondents also highlighted the unique needs of older persons in the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer and Two Spirited (LGBTTQ2S) community who feel they must "go back in the closet" due to a lack of awareness of and sensitivity to LGBTTQ2S issues among older Torontonians. More broadly, respondents warned against segregating older adults, and called for policies and programs that led to their greater inclusion in society.


Expert Panel and Toronto Seniors' Forum

Complementing the public consultation process were a series of meetings with two groups (see Acknowledgements for a list of members). First was an Expert Panel of 33 leaders from community, academic, medical and seniors' advocacy organizations. The second was the Toronto Seniors' Forum, a group that works to engage seniors in Toronto in the working of local government. The feedback received in these meetings strongly reinforced the concerns and priorities heard throughout the public consultation process.

The feedback also contained vital strategic advice. The need to ensure accountability and leadership in the implementation of this Strategy was one key suggestion. Members of the Expert Panel and Toronto Seniors' forum suggested that recommendations should be specific, clear, and implementable. As part of this approach, they called for timely monitoring of the Strategy to clearly identify whether the recommendations have been implemented.

Members also emphasized the need for strong leadership from both City Council and staff. This stewardship would ensure that the Strategy continues to serve as a living document defining the City's ongoing approach to developing an age-friendly Toronto.

Finally, participants highlighted community partnerships as an important element in implementing the Strategy's goals. Key partners include, but are not limited to, provincial and federal governments, private sector, not-for-profit agencies, and community organizations. The provincial and federal governments are both currently developing and implementing strategic plans to address an aging population. Expert Panel and Toronto Seniors' Forum members strongly recommended aligning this Strategy with these other older adult initiatives.


Conclusion

Participants in the consultation process called for an age-friendly approach to service delivery. This approach would support people of all ages, including Toronto's older adults, in living active, socially engaged, healthy, and independent lives.

They emphasized the need to continuously seek input from older Torontonians and to include them in the policy-making and service delivery processes. Respondents also called for a collaborative approach among service providers and all governments in order to better serve older adults now and into the future.

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