A province-wide organization, Seniors Action Quebec, was launched November 19 with the release of the report Enjoying Your Senior Years in Your Own Language, Culture and Community, by the Commissioner of Official Languages.
The report on English-speaking seniors in Quebec confirmed that despite higher education levels among English seniors, nearly as many are living below the poverty line as French seniors with less education. Since so many children of English-speaking families have left Quebec, the seniors left behind, of whom over half do not speak French, find themselves in a vulnerable position when seeking social and professional services.
“The commissioner and Seniors Action agree that all levels of government must now look at their planning and their programming and policies and make sure they address and include the senior element,” says Ruth Pelletier, vice-president of the group.
She says the community must get involved. “Take a membership with Seniors Action. We need translators, people who have expertise with IT, people to produce marketing tools, to diversify our funding base, go to corporations, volunteers to help with the membership drive, driving skills, communications skills, people to join committees. It is a huge shopping list that is endless.”
The organization is already working on issues that affect seniors. In the fall it acted as a focus group for a fraud prevention initiative, and on National Seniors Day last October it held an event celebrating the contributions of senior leaders in the community.
“There is a lot of concern about transportation,” says Pelletier, who is undergoing hip replacement followed by knee replacement surgery. “I have no access to transport adapté—I am not a permanently disabled person.” She emphasizes that whatever benefits Seniors Action can help serve the larger community. “It could be someone who’s broken a bone.”
Access to information is one of the organization’s main goals. “We know that a high percentage of senior women are living below the poverty line and this is a serious concern. If they qualify for the Guaranteed Income Supplement, they will not get it unless they apply for it. We are working with the government to find a mechanism to apply automatically.”
She characterizes Program 68, which involves several disruptive short-term placements for seniors requiring long-term care as “scary stuff.”
“I want people to come forward with cases and feel somewhat reassured that there are organizations that will be monitoring and watching all this.”