Ottawa Public Health preparing for a more diverse senior population

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Ottawa’s public health department says demographic trends suggest the city’s population will get older overall, and those older residents are becoming more diverse.

The Board of Health will be considering a report next week on those trends.

According to the 2016 census, 29 per cent of Ottawa’s population was older than 55.

The report says in 2036, that proportion is expected to be 33 per cent — that includes 20 per cent of the overall population that would be older than 65 and four per cent older than 85.

The report says 16 per cent of people older than 55 identify as members of a visible minority, up from 10 per cent in 2001.

The plan will look at healthy aging — including community factors, support for caregivers and preventative health.

Wen Jean Ho, program director at the Kanata Chinese Seniors Support Centre, said the main challenge for seniors in her community is language.

“People struggle with trying to be good with the language, but somehow it’s just not happening,” Ho said.

Wen Jean Ho runs the Kanata Chinese Seniors Support Centre.

She said it can contribute to social isolation, but also be intimidating when it comes to the medical terminology required to see doctors and specialists.

“That’s why they have to rely on the translation services, they have to rely on family or all kinds of assistance they can get,” she said.

The report said three per cent of older Ottawa residents have no knowledge of English or French.

Ho said over the last 10 years she’s seen more seniors living on their own in apartments rather than staying with the rest of their family.

“In this case, they rely on the community services more than before,” she said.

Ho said family members in the Chinese community are often very reluctant to talk about cognitive illnesses or to seek support as caregivers.

The OPH report didn’t identify specific measures targeted at the diverse groups within the senior population, though it said consultation will be continuing for the update to the Older Adult Plan.

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