It’s easy to find a host of analysis, plans and primers on the pressure being placed on the country to deal with the acute demographic shift we’re experiencing.

Baby boomers are turning into senior citizens. Seniors are Canada’s fastest growing demographic — expected to reach up one-quarter of the total population by two decades from now.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information reports that while seniors now make up less than 15 per cent of the population, they consume approximately 45 per cent of public health money.

The Canadian Medical Association warns the country is “ill-prepared for the impact an aging population will have on the health care system, social services and the economy.”

Hence, the endless list of studies and strategies generated in recent times as worried politicians hope to look busy with the file.

Including, of course, in the NWT.

Our Elders: Our Communities – Best Health, Best Care, for a Better Future was a glossy “strategic framework” developed by the territorial government in May 2014. It is still the go-to safe place for officials when questioned on the GNWTs ability to address seniors’ needs.

“Meeting the health care and social needs of elders and seniors is an essential goal for our government,” stated Health and Social Services Minister Glen Abernethy in the 2014 report. “Elders are deeply-respected for their knowledge and guidance, and should be given the best care and support possible.”

Who can argue with that sentiment? Why wouldn’t any good government do its ultimate best to ensure our seniors/elders enjoy their golden years with dignity and respect?

But Yellowknifer is certain that a pile of policies, frameworks and strategies isn’t going to offer any comfort to those over 65 who might right now be dealing with poverty, inadequate housing, mental health issues, acute and specialty care needs, or a lack of palliative care in their home communities.

That problem is even more acute in the North, where jobs are scarce outside of Yellowknife, and housing is expensive in the capital and across the territory.

And if heartstrings can’t be tugged with the notion that the North is a better place if seniors can continue to call the North home instead of fleeing to a more hospitable living down south, then we need to remind our politicians that for every senior who leaves, that represents a $28,000 loss in federal per capita formula funding. Moreover, when a senior moves it also often means their immediate family leaves with them.

Yellowknifer reported on Nov. 22 that the NWT Seniors’ Society and the territorial minister aren’t seeing eye-to-eye on how to tackle issues affecting the aging population.

The society is lobbying the territorial government to come up with an all-encompassing NWT seniors’ strategy that would bring together existing policies, frameworks and strategies affecting older adults.

But Abernethy, who is also minister responsible for seniors, says the government already did that work three years ago with the Our Elders: Our Communities report.

Now it’s not as if the GNWT hasn’t done any work for seniors. There are plans to develop 72-beds in the old Stanton Hospital and for new facilities to serve the South Slave and Beaufort Delta regions – but it appears it could really focus a bit more on doing real work.

And getting such an important group as the NWT Seniors’ Society onside is critical.

Abernethy should clearly identify what work he plans to accomplish in the next two years.

We need to reassure seniors that they are wanted and needed up here. And that includes those Baby Boomers who might not be as prepared for old age as their parents were.

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