The Community Foundation of Kingston and Area (CFKA) marked the release of its annual Vital Signs report by hosting a kickoff on Monday morning (October 2) event at the Kingston Seniors Centre, which is located at a converted school on Francis Avenue (near Portsmouth) in Kingston. The location of the release in a building where seniors participate in recreational programming day in and day out fit the theme of the presentations well. The report itself points out that the local region is ahead of the national curve in terms of aging.
As of the most recent census there are more Canadians over 65 than there are children. Twenty per cent of Kingston residents are over 65 and that figure is projected to increase to 30% by 2026. With an even older population than the City of Kingston, the issues surrounding aging are also a challenge for Frontenac County. Apart from the need for more services and stresses on existing infrastructure, the region may have a labour shortage to deal with. The population of Kingston and Frontenac is projected to grow from 160,000 in 2016 to 171,000 in 2026 but the number of adults of working age (15-64) is projected to drop from 106,000 in 2016 to under 100,000 by 2026.
Housing designed for seniors at different levels of need, whether it is seniors focused rent geared to income housing, assisted living units, or beds in long term care facilities such as Fairmount Home, are all lagging behind demand currently with long wait lists in each sector.
On the other hand the report indicates that a large proportion of seniors are maintaining social and family ties, are exercising and living independent lives well into their 80’s and 90’s.
For a perspective on aging and social planning, Dr. Jennifer Ingram, a specialist in internal geriatric medicine, the founder of the Kawartha Memory clinic, and the Seniors Physician Lead with the Central East Local Health Integration Network delivered an address.
In a wide ranging talk, one of her topics was dementia. She said that dementia, on a population scale, is something that the health care system and communities of care such as families and networks of friends and neighbours are least prepared for, but that some of the research that is going on might make a difference.
“We can now identify dementia when it is coming. We can distinguish dementia from normal aging, and we can now do this up to 15 years before the decline in cognition is apparent. It is similar to identifying and treating people when they are in a pre-diabetic state.
“We need to change our thinking, we need a dementia strategy that calls for supports and a better dementia workforce, which includes changes in primary care,” she said.
She also said that she agrees with the current government’s reluctance to build more long term care beds to deal with a bubble of need that will eventually pass.
“We built schools on a massive scale and now we are closing them and leaving empty buildings and we don’t want to do that with long term care.
“The solution is to provide supports for seniors, families and caregivers to continue living at home. The costs are so much lower and the outcomes are better,” she said.
Paul Charbonneau, Chief of Frontenac Paramedic Services talked about the paramedicine initiatives on Wolfe Island and elsewhere in the county that the service he manages have been able to start up, and about the movement towards making more use of the skills of paramedics for health promotion.
“The program has been taken up by the Ministry of Health” he said. Paramedicine programs were first developed in Australia and were pioneered in Ontario in Renfrew County. Frontenac Paramedic Services operates a clinic on Wolfe Island and they work with Rural and Southern Frontenac Community Services to meet with senior’s at Diners events each month.
The report card aspect of this years’ Vital Signs Report is not as important as it may have been in previous years, because the premise of the report is that issues around aging well are going to be front and centre in the minds of social service agencies, the health care system, municipal governments and so many others over the next 10 to 20 years that the intent of this report is more to identify issues that will been to be addressed rather than evaluate how well the systems that are currently in place are faring.
That being said, some current gaps in the system were identified, particularly as regards housing.