The 96-page seniors’ strategic framework, tabled in the Legislative Assembly last week, sets out 20 areas the GNWT will address to enable seniors to “age in place with dignity.”
Ageing with dignity is defined by the territory to mean Elders are able to live safely and independently at home for as long as they are able, or for as long as they wish.
In many NWT communities, a lack of transportation, affordable housing, and access to health and social services make ageing in place difficult.
Yet the average age of the territory is expected to increase at a clip in the years ahead – that’s already happening – and services will need to move with that. No longer can the territory rely on many older residents simply heading south once they finish careers in the North.
The GNWT’s new strategy provides guidance for all government departments to better support seniors, following engagement with NWT residents and organizations and a literature and data review.
The strategy is based on four pillars, under which the 20 action areas are found:
built environment, which primarily looks at the accessibility, affordability, and suitability of indoor and outdoor infrastructure;
healthy ageing, which encompasses physical, mental, and social health;
safety, which looks at senior safety in relationships, homes, and communities;
and information and communication, which ensures information for seniors is relevant timely, accessible and culturally appropriate.
Under these pillars, the territorial government will focus on things like ensuring community spaces are accessible and age-friendly, seniors have access to a range of financial supports, legal advice is available for things like estate and will planning, and system navigator services can help seniors find the help they need.
Specific actions and timelines are not included.
“A comfortable life for seniors means having access to the necessary services and support to live independently and safely at home. This goal requires collaboration and coordination of efforts with all government entities and our valuable community partners,” said Green.
“That work has already started during this assembly, including the increased home heating subsidy, a new income assistance stream for seniors, and access to home improvement funding. I am confident these program changes have improved the ability of seniors to age in place.”
In the summer of 2020, while still a regular MLA, Green led a successful motion calling on the GNWT to adopt a “whole-of-government approach to enhance and coordinate programs and services.”
In response, ministers at the time said a seniors’ strategy was probably not doable with existing resources – particularly as the Covid-19 pandemic was only months old at that point.
Months later, replacing Katrina Nokleby in cabinet and assigned the health portfolio, Green found herself responsible for the document she had urged the territory to create. (The document published last week is named a strategic framework rather than a strategy. The territory appeared to treat it as an equivalent.)
In a statement, the minister said she hoped it would provide “clear direction to future governments.”