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Opinion: Mayor’s Seniors Month proclamation should be a call to action

Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan says given the levels of loneliness and social isolation from the pandemic, and the weaknesses the pandemic exposed in our long-term care system, makes this year’s Seniors Month more important than
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On June 3, Mayor Brian Bigger once again made his annual proclamation declaring the month of June as Seniors Month in the City of Greater Sudbury. 

The theme for Seniors Month in Ontario this year is “Stay safe, active and connected.” This is a time when we typically recognize our amazing older adults and the contributions they‘ve made in our community. It is generally a month filled with exciting events and activities that highlight the good things that we have done for and with our seniors.

This year, however, things are different. The coronavirus pandemic has clearly demonstrated that as a society we have failed to provide so many of our older adults with the resources and services that are needed in order to enable them to remain safe, healthy, engaged and live life to the fullest. Loneliness and social isolation have reached a crisis level among seniors. Understaffing, underfunding and poor living conditions in long term care homes have prevented these institutions from providing an adequate quality of life for many of their residents. 

This year, the mayor’s proclamation must be considered a call to action, and it is being made to the right group, namely the Seniors Advisory Panel Network (SAPN) during their monthly meeting.

First of all let me say that it has been an honour and a privilege to have served as co-chair of the Seniors Advisory Panel for the past six years alongside Barbara Nott, who chairs most of the meetings. Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc and I, as councillor of Ward 5, were appointed to serve this term as city council representatives. Sherri Moroso, Community Initiative and Engagement Coordinator, is the staff liaison who manages the administrative functions for the group. In addition to Barb Nott, eight other community representatives were appointed to the Seniors Advisory Panel at the beginning of the current term in early 2019.

One of the main mandates of the panel is to provide advice to the mayor and council on seniors’ issues in order to promote the development of a continuum of services for seniors. The Seniors Summit 2019, which was sponsored by the Seniors Advisory Panel, made it perfectly clear that there was a need for more collaboration among stakeholders from across the community in order to effectively provide the level of consultation, education, advice and advocacy needed to promote, maintain and enhance the quality of life of seniors living in the City of Greater Sudbury.

At the beginning of this year, we established the Seniors Advisory Panel Network, which now includes close to 100 members representing groups, organizations, associations, health care agencies and government departments, as well as professionals, caregivers and individuals from both the public and private sectors who all have an interest in the health and well-being of older adults living in the Greater Sudbury Area. 

The SAPN meets ‘virtually’ on the first Thursday of every month at 10 a.m. and is open to anyone in the community who wants to take an active role in making sure that the needs of our seniors are being addressed. Anyone who is interested in attending one of the meetings and becoming part of the network should contact Sherri Moroso at sherri.moroso@greatersudbury.ca or call 311 and ask to speak with Sherri Moroso.

The Seniors Advisory Panel Network provides monthly updates to city councillors on issues discussed at our meetings; is involved in the ongoing development of the Age Friendly Strategy; wrote the city submission to the Long-Term Care Commission; supports a number of annual senior events and symposiums; is following up with recommendations made during the Seniors Summit 2019; and provides opportunities for participants to communicate and engage with each other with respect to initiatives and projects where collaboration may be possible.

We must move forward towards a post-pandemic society that is going to be more sensitive to the needs of our older adults. We never want to return to the way things were prior to the pandemic. The members of the SAPN will be focusing on enhancing home care services for older adults who wish to age in place; advocating for overall improvements in our long term care homes; and encouraging the municipality to develop policies which will facilitate initiatives driven by both the public and private sectors which will develop a much more age friendly community that will enhance the quality of life of older adults. This time we cannot fail in our mission to create a better world for our older adults.

Robert Kirwan is the Greater Sudbury city councillor for Ward 5.