A  three-year study of Quebec's anglophone seniors shows that many feel that their ability to do the things they want to do is curtailed by language barriers — and are especially concerned about access to health services. ​

The Quebec Community Groups Network says it commissioned the survey and report to make sure people who speak English don't fall through the cracks.

The group said it found 68.5 per cent of seniors believe a language barrier curtails their ability to realize their full potential.

“A lot of English-speaking seniors who came of age before Bill 101 didn't have the same opportunities to be educated in French [or] to go into the workforce in French,” said Celine Cooper, a lead researcher in the study. 

Cooper coordinated the massive province-wide project which surveyed more than 800 people over the age of 55.

The survey found one-third won't get service in English right away at the local hospital or health clinic.

"The medical system is the one that frightens me the most," Maxine Bloom, president of the Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors told Steve Rukavina on CBC Montreal's Homerun.

Other study findings

  • 1,058,250 anglophones live in Quebec
  • 25.4% of anglophones are 55 and over
  • 37.7% of anglophones in the Eastern Townships are 55 and over
  • 27.7% of anglophone seniors need assistance when it comes to communicating with public service providers

"Being 85 is not that easy all by itself. Having a language problem just makes it worse," she said. 

Bloom said that although she has been able to get health services in English so far, she wants to feel confident she will always be able to. 

"It just takes one person who refuses to speak your language to make you feel like a second-class citizen," she said.

In the Gaspé, the Townships and around the Island of Montreal, the number of people who won't get service in English right away at the local hospital or health clinic is closer to 40 per cent.

“I worry about the very frail senior who doesn't have family [or] doesn't have the income to buy services, so they're relying on neighbours or on community organizations,” said Ruth Pelletier president of Seniors Action Quebec, an organization that represents 270,000 anglophones over the age of 55.

Pelletier said that although most institutions are doing their best given financial and staff restraints, language is still a barrier to health services.

But she said it's clear that it's more difficult for anglophone seniors to get adequate health care than it is for their francophone counterparts.