Written by: Douglas A Coburn AIIC (CIP) RAC cert., BSc.Pod

The METOO social media movement is an excellent example of how positive change is made possible from a grass roots level. A few individuals started a conversation that resulted in a new and humane social order for today and for future generations.

Society is beginning to pay attention to the ever “ageing elephant” in the room.  There are numerous conversations on a variety of platforms happening right now that are exposing the harsh realities and conditions affecting our ageing population

As a naturopath and podologist I find myself at the front line of those conversations. I serve elderly clients every day and witness the social and physical challenges they face. I hear so many similar stories and patterns that form a network of shared concerns not just from the one person in my care but also from the daughters, sons and relatives of the elderly and I sense their deep frustration and concern as they struggle to care for their parents.

Consider your own future in this narrative.  Could the collective voice we start today result in a brighter tomorrow?

Perhaps conversations occurring now will pave the way towards a Canada which includes a socialized pharmaceutical program.

Perhaps Canadians can create new ways of networking so that no mature adult is forced into circumstances where they face years of depressing and debilitating isolation.

Perhaps Canada might soon follow the recent steps Whitehall has taken in order to address the realities facing the UK population.  The British Parliament has appointed its first “minister for loneliness,” who is charged with the monumental task to resolving what Prime Minister Theresa May called the “sad reality of modern life”.

The World Health Organization as well as numerous other medical bodies agree that loneliness and isolation can lead directly to the detriment of one’s health.

We can make a difference in our community if we ask the right questions and echo the concerns of senior citizens sitting directly across from us during our daily interactions. Forming platforms where groups of people who are in a position to act and respond to the realities that we must face is imperative.  We have a health care system that defines us as a nation.  Preserving it means we must cherish it and adapt it to prevail and support the weight of the increasing wave of those citizens that will reach the age of 65.


  • There are 5.7 million Senior Citizens in Canada today, 10% of this number reside in public or private institutions.
  • Implementing programs so that senior citizens may choose to live in their own homes and receive better home care visitation could actually be the path to a better socialized medical system and create new economic growth.
  • One emergency visit to a hospital in Canada costs a minimum average of $1,000.00. Compare this amount to a home visit that costs and an average of $200.00.  Delivering some health care directly to the homes of the elderly or disabled provides so much more:  a pro-active, caring, dignified, educational approach that has a capacity to render lasting solutions that include domestic risk management assessments.
  • The Niagara region of Ontario has developed a new EMS unit to address the perils affecting the elderly. The team provides an on-site service that includes not only a paramedic but also an occupational therapist, and both of the professionals in that EMS van have a background in geriatric medicine. This EMS service is saving the district of Niagara thousands of dollars a day (some actuarial reports surfacing so far show these types of service could save Ontario’s ER rooms some $2 billion a year).
  • The latest Statistics Canada numbers show 44% of us are single and this number is growing rapidly. To quote the lyrics in the Beatles hit song; “will you still love me, will you still need me, when I’m 64?”

The top 3 ranking provinces in terms of elderly care policy and programs are:
New Brunswick (Gold)
Nova Scotia (Silver)
Quebec (Bronze)

Provinces that are taking on new campaigns to address these issues are succeeding because the public voice is making it happen.

  • The shocking coroner’s report surrounding the Elizabeth Wettlaufer affair, the registered nurse that took the lives of 8 senior citizens in southern Ontario by quietly injecting them with an overdose of insulin.
  • The numerous fires that have been reported involving safety in seniors residences where tragedy could have been entirely avoided if only one 9 volt battery was replaced.
  • The horrific fire in 2014 that claimed lives within a seniors residence in LIsle-Verte, Quebec, where lives were lost simply because no one checked on those trapped. Particularly troublesome were those who were simply forgotten about as the building filled with smoke, and when the flames took over it was too late to save the ones left within.
  • The tragic freezing death this winter of Hèlène Rowley Hotte (the mother of Gille Duceppe, who at one time was the leader of Her Majesties Loyal Opposition in the Canadian Parliament). Her frozen body was found in the courtyard of a luxury seniors residence. She died because of a locked door, a door she was advised to access in the event of a fire.  Yet, in this case, there was no fire. It was a false alarm that took her to the courtyard. No one checked on Madame  Rowley Hotte or saw her following the flashing lights to the exit even though staff and management knew she lived alone and was hearing impaired and could not hear the announcement that it was a false alarm.

ACHIEVING a better life for our elderly is sustainable and workable as long as we continue the conversation and foster an open inclusive dialogue.

We must be watchful and take the time to know our neighbours. We need to listen and learn. We must reinforce a sense of trust through acts of respect. If “it takes a village to raise a child”, then additionally we can adopt the idea that “it takes a village, and the children of that village to care for its senior citizens”.  If we respond appropriately, reinforce trust and act respectfully, seniors will feel safe to share and accept their own limitations and we will know that a better world will be there for us.


Keep watching as we report additional information about ageing and isolation including feedback from you.  Send us your thoughts and ideas on how we can move forward and create new conversations. Ask your friends, neighbours or your relatives what concerns them now.  Echo those concerns and let us know what you have discovered.  I look forward to hearing from you at : dougcoburn@spacanada.ca

I dedicate this article to three vivacious and highly engaged active seniors in my life, Elaine, Lorraine and Phyllis.

Douglas A. Coburn is a naturopath and podologist living and working in Montreal.  He writes for magazines such as Spa Canada and contributes articles to OttawaSeniors.com.  His professional certifications include AIIC, RAC cert., BSc.PodDouglas A. Coburn