• Aboriginal Seniors among Canada’s most vulnerable citizens
Dec 04, 2013

Toronto, ON (November 28, 2013) – A new report by the Health Council of Canada says that governments must make a greater effort to collaborate to improve health care for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis seniors. The report, Canada’s most vulnerable: Improving health care for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis seniors, shows they often do not receive the same level of health care as non-Aboriginal Canadians because of poor communication, collaboration, and disputes between governments about who is responsible for the care of Aboriginal people. 

The Health Council says that little attention has been paid to date to the health care needs of Aboriginal seniors in either research or public policy. Yet in comparison to the larger Canadian population, a significantly higher proportion of Aboriginal seniors live on low incomes and in poor health, with multiple chronic conditions and disabilities. Many are in poorer physical and mental health due to the disruption to their way of life caused by colonization, particularly the intergenerational impacts and trauma of the residential school experience. These health needs are magnified by poverty, poor housing, racism, language barriers, and cultural differences. 

“Aboriginal seniors have more complex health needs than other Canadian seniors, but they often don’t receive the same level of care,” says Dr. Catherine Cook, a Councillor with the Health Council of Canada who is Métis.  Home care for First Nations seniors on reserve is one example discussed in the report. “In some provinces, there can be quite a discrepancy between the level of care available to First Nations seniors on reserve, and what is available to seniors in the rest of the province,” she says. “At the same time, some provinces have inadvertently caused more pressure for on-reserve home care programs by creating policies that send people home earlier from the hospital.” 

The Health Council’s report contains promising practices from across Canada where governments, health regions, and Aboriginal communities have formed partnerships to improve health care for Aboriginal seniors and other Aboriginal people. “The ground-breaking transfer of health authority to the new First Nations Health Authority in BC is the highest profile example of this type of partnership,” says John G. Abbott, CEO of the Health Council of Canada. “We heard about many emerging partnerships at a local or regional level, where people were surveying Aboriginal seniors to find out their needs, and working together to make improvements,” says Abbott.

The purpose of this report, he adds, is to give governments, regional health authorities, and health care providers a better understanding of the problems faced by First Nations, Inuit, and Métis seniors, and to provide them with examples of how they can do things differently.

To download the full report, visit: healthcouncilcanada.ca/improvinghealthcare