A leading NWT senior citizens advocate says the debate around care for elders in the territory sometimes doesn’t take into account what brings meaning and pleasure to people in their twilight years.

We can’t look at elders as only requiring help,” said Suzette Montreuil, executive director of the NWT Seniors’ Society.

We need to come back to what elders can offer.”

Serving people in their old age needs to involve keeping elders integrated with community activity and wellness plans, as elders are carriers of traditional knowledge and have much to offer their communities, she said.

Montreuil commended the work being done by the GNWT to offer home-care and home support workers in as many communities as possible, which allows elders to stay in their home communities and have a better quality of life, but much more work needs to be done.

First off, more funding for seniors and seniors’ care is needed, she said.

As well, in addition to a need for more long-term care beds, a continuum of services starting with assisted living—help with personal care, meal delivery and such services — should become the norm.

Sometimes, the barriers to an elder being able to live at home are relatively simple maintenance issues, she said.

When they can’t do their own maintenance, it’s very hard for them to find anyone to come in and do it even if they’re paying because nobody wants these small little contracts,” said Montreuil.

Earlier this month, Health and Social Services Minister Glen Abernethy held a public briefing on the GNWT’s Cultural Safety Action Plan.

The draft plan outlines steps to reduce discrimination, improve communication with patients, honour and incorporate traditional knowledge, train staff in cultural practices and refocus health care on relationship-building.

At the public briefing, better translation and plain language policies were called for by Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green.

Montreuil said the steps outlined in the plan bode well for seniors’ services, especially if language is considered.

I know that the government has done some work in bringing back a better staff orientation, which I think is really important,” she said.
“I think, also, a diverse workforce would help a lot more elders feel at home and welcome.”

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