New Brunswick

'An unnecessary crisis': forming a plan for N.B.'s aging population

In a province where 16.5 per cent of the population are at least 65 years old, an aging strategy should rank near the top of the list of priorities, according to New Brunswick's Council on Aging.

Although 16.5% of New Brunswickers are 65 or older, province still lacks solid plan, group says

New Brunswick has no provincial dementia strategy, which, given the province's aging population, needs to change, says the Council on Aging. (The Associated Press)

In a province where 16.5 per cent of the population are at least 65 years old, an aging strategy should rank near the top of the list of priorities, according to New Brunswick's Council on Aging.

"Discourse on aging in New Brunswick has tended in the past to be negative, stating the things that aren't right in somebody's opinion," said Ken McGeorge, co-chair of the council.

"We need a plan for going forward. If you don't have a plan, any old road will do. And we really do need to focus on the things that are not working well, and fix them."

Dementia strategy needed

To that end, New Brunswick's Council on Aging conducted an online survey and consulted more than 40 stakeholder groups and researchers to develop the The Aging Strategy for New Brunswick.

Released last Friday, the document outlines a plan to respond to the challenges associated with New Brunswick's aging population. Among its goals are to keep seniors independent for as long as possible, make sure health care is available to those who need it, and develop a provincial dementia strategy.

"One of the problems that you hear recited around people with dementia and Alzheimer's disease have to do with the fact that we do not have a provincial plan for managing dementia," said McGeorge.

Nova Scotia, British Columbia, and Ontario are among the provinces that have dedicated action plans on dealing with dementia.

So far, no such strategy exists in New Brunswick.

"I'm not going to rest until we get that plan in place and implemented," McGeorge said.

The Liberal government announced the creation of the council in September 2015, saying its mandate would be to develop a strategy to guide provincial decision on issues affecting seniors.

An 'unnecessary crisis'

While services exist for seniors in the province, McGeorge said, the "problem is the organization of the serves, and the lack of synergy between departments."

If we do nothing, every hospital bed in the province will be filled with people with dementia or frail elders within the next 10 years.- Ken McGeorge, New Brunswick Council on Aging

​McGeorge said there have been plenty of reports on how to deal with the province's aging demographics but no action.

"We now have a promise in writing of an action plan," he said.  "We'd like to see that within weeks. It shouldn't take any more than a month."

Time is of the essence, McGeorge said.

"If we do nothing, every hospital bed in the province will be filled with people with dementia or frail elders within the next 10 years," he said.

"It's not overstating it to say it's a crisis of our time, but it's an unnecessary crisis."

With files from Information Morning Saint John

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