April 16th, 2024

Guest Column: Policy, community attitude must focus on well-being of all seniors

By Nadia Sumbulanga on March 28, 2024.

As society improves medical care and life expectancy, the longevity of senior citizens should be celebrated. However, one issue overlooked is the economic insecurity faced by many older citizens. Recent studies have revealed a trend of financial hardship among this vulnerable population that demands attention and action. It is time to recognize and address the challenges faced by the elderly, ensuring they are given the care they deserve.

Understanding the crisis

Statistics Canada states that seniors entering retirement will have difficulty living on a reduced income. Many will live below the poverty line, struggling to afford even the necessities like food, housing and health care.

This distressing statistic represents 12 per cent of the older adults who will be struggling financially during what should be their golden years.

Personalizing the issue, broadening the lens

Behind these statistics are real-life stories of seniors living their lives with this hardship. Consider the case reported by Ribeiro, Yamada and Benvenuti involving a 66-year-old man who suffered an acute myocardial infarction despite being hypertensive and a smoker. He unexpectedly had to deal with this life-threatening situation.

This incident resulted in his death following a primary coronary angioplasty. This puts a harsh light on the vulnerabilities seniors face, particularly when chronic conditions occur with acute medical emergencies. His story is an upsetting example of how seniors struggle for health and well-being and must deal with complex choices and the threats of mortality.

The core issues of this example are complex and are signs of wider systemic absences trending negatively toward seniors. Considering this patient concealed a worsening condition on the day of admission and then faced a rapid decline instead of relatively smooth progression, shows how important timely care and specialists are needed for the multiple issues seniors deal with.

Also, it shows the importance of preventive care and early-stage identification for people with risk factors (such as hypertension and smoking). This story is common among what many seniors are experiencing daily. Work by Kang & Kim (2022) focuses on the relationship between ageism, aging anxiety and the mental health of seniors. It says that when society has any opposing thoughts about age, it influences the emotional stability of the elderly.

If we are to be a society known for compassion and fairness, we must agree that our seniors who live in poverty should not be ignored. Seniors deserve much respect for their lifetime contributions to society. A debt of gratitude is necessary.

A systematic review by Chang et al. (2020) examines the global impact of ageism on the health of seniors. It shows the effects attitudes of aging have on seniors’ physical and mental health outcomes.

Call to action

In the classroom, we talked about social justice. There is a low level of concern toward seniors which involves an injustice.

As social workers, the ideals of equity and inclusion, it is our duty to make sure seniors receive the same social justices that all populations receive. It is not only about policy or advocacy, but also about human rights.

They deserve the same acknowledgment, respect and chances of happiness that we would expect to have as any other social fellow. There is no doubt that social rights such as participation, value and autonomy are vital to the well-being of seniors, yet in many cultures and practices, they are often deprived of these rights.

Injustices regarding the issue of aging are not only unacceptable but also fully disagree with the simple presumptions that one is equal in rights to the other in social work; such individuals are recognized and given equal chances in life.

Why it matters

The way we train and care for seniors represents the ideals of the community. Similarly, seniors’ concerns and wishes should be considered; however, society prevents itself from being fair and balanced.

If we are lucky, we will all reach old age, thus, moving toward justice for older adults is in our best interest. It is time to address these matters with a multi-perspective approach that includes policy reforms, community engagement and a changed attitude concerning seniors.

Social safety net policies should be strengthened by additional funding to healthcare and old-age security to properly care for seniors. Also, include a cultural appreciation and respect for seniors’ knowledge and experience. With an increase in dialogue and overall appreciation of seniors, we will value our most dignified members of society.

Policy changes to medical care and aging will influence the quality of life for all of society.

Nadia Sumbulanga is a social work student at the University of Calgary


Chang, E.-S., Sneha Kannoth, L, S., W, S.-Y., L, J. E., & Levy, B. R. (2020). The global reach of ageism on older persons’ health: A systematic review. PLOS ONE, 15(1), e0220857-e0220857. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0220857

https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.shutterstock.com%2Fimage-photo%2Fnurse-putting-on-surgical-mask-260nw-1705232602.jpg&tbnid=aJIxS3fHKZcGiM&vet= 12ahUKEwiB_Mjxs_ WEAxXdLzQIHbOABsIQMyhbeg UIARCQAg..i&imgrefurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.shutterstock.com%2Fsearch%2Felderly-mask&docid=OQEpGMKaBUzWzM&w=390&h=280&itg=1&q=seniors%27%20picture%20with%20mask&hl=en&ved=2ahUKEwiB_Mjxs_WEAxXdLzQIHbOABsIQMyhbegUIARCQAg


https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.grafichedicta.it%2F%3Fa%3Dwhat-is-a-zoom-lens-and-when-do-you-4-kk-40gyB5Ud&psig=AOvVaw3WquaeWvmI08fGhau_rRab&ust= 1710563933580000&source =image s&cd=vfe&opi=89978449&ved=0CBEQjRxqFwoTCMCY1La59YQDFQAAAAAdAAAAABAI

Kang, H., & Kim, H. (2022). Ageism and Psychological Well-Being Among Older Adults: A Systematic Review. Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine, 8, 233372142210870-233372142210870. https://doi.org/10.1177/23337214221087023

Statistics Canada. (2022). Aging and Seniors. (https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/75-006-x/2019001/article/00005-eng.htm

Wilma Noia Ribeiro, Alice Tatsuko Yamada, & Luiz Alberto Benvenuti. (2014). Case 4/2014 – A 66-Year-Old Man with Acute Myocardial Infarction and Death in Asystole after Primary Coronary Angioplasty. Arquivos Brasileiros de Cardiologia. https://doi.org/10.5935/abc.20140129

Whitfield, K., Angel J., Burton L., & Hayward M. (2022). Diversity, Disparities, and Inequalities in Aging: Implications for Policy. https//academic.com/ppar/article/16/3/16/15/33652 by University of Calgary users on 31 January 2022.

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