EDMONTON - Today, on the two year anniversary of the World Health Organization’s declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic, a coalition of seniors’ advocacy organizations are launching a campaign demanding that the government legislate a Seniors’ Advocate, a role that the UCP axed early in their tenure in the legislature.
“Almost 90% of all COVID-19 deaths in Alberta have been in people over the age of 60,” said Carol Wodak, a member of Public Interest Alberta’s Seniors’ Task Force. “The vast majority of these seniors died while in facilities-based care after weeks or months without hugs from their families and loved ones. The continuing care system in Alberta and across the country has been in a state of crisis for years. After decades of increasing privatization, declining staff-to-patient ratios, and a chronically underpaid and stretched-thin workforce, the COVID-19 pandemic swept away any pretense of a functional care system. Seniors are suffering and far too many have died alone and too soon.”
“Here are we two years into this public health crisis, and what has the UCP government done to protect Alberta seniors?” added Wodak. “Alberta seniors deserve better than this callous disregard from our government.”
The coalition’s campaign is calling for a legislated, independent, appropriately empowered and funded Office of the Seniors Advocate to ensure it can conduct investigations into individual concerns, systemic issues, report to the legislature and speak to the media without fear of political interference.
“COVID-19 is not the only issue seniors face,” said Chris Gallaway, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare. “Seniors struggle with poverty, loneliness, housing insecurity, lack of access to social services and more. All things the UCP government have made worse through cuts to public services, privatization, and selling off of affordable housing.”
“Seniors need a dedicated advocate to help them navigate these complex systems, conduct investigations into seniors care mismanagement and abuse, and to build public support for improvements to the systems in place to help seniors,” said Gallaway.
“The Seniors Advocate was in high demand in its short tenure,” added Gallaway. “Seniors in our province are suffering and they need help. The government could take an immediate step to address this with a legislated, independent and empowered Seniors Advocate.”
“Seniors in Alberta and across the nation deserve safety and a dignified life,” said Wodak. “They are vital and integral parts of our communities and our families. They deserve so much more. That’s why all Albertans should join with organizations like Public Interest Alberta, Friends of Medicare, Seniors United Now, The National Association of Federal Retirees, Canadian Association of Retired Persons, and more to demand the creation of an independent, properly-empowered and -funded Seniors’ Advocate dedicated to promoting the rights and well-being of Alberta seniors.”