Seniors and service providers from around Cook Bay in York Region and South Simcoe were invited to a free event for seniors on Thursday, hosted at the East Gwillimbury recreation complex by MPP Caroline Mulroney – a morning of free coffee, dessert and information.
Mulroney said she had been inspired to hold the event by former MPP for York-Simcoe, Julia Munro.
“This is what I hope will be the first of a series of events,” Mulroney said, crediting Munro with suggesting the first in the series should focus on senior residents, highlighting the services and supports available.
“This is a way to bring together a lot of community members,” Mulroney noted.
There were displays by the Hydro One ombudsman and the AffordAbility Fund, which can provide free energy-efficient upgrades for homeowners; York Regional Police, warning of scams targeting seniors; the Alzheimer Society of York Region; Hospice Georgina; and East Gwillimbury Parks and Recreation.
Harvey Dix, of Retire-At-Home, a company that provides services in South Simcoe and York Region, was there to publicize a new direction for the company, which assists seniors in maintaining their independence at home.
Dix explained that Retire-At-Home has been rebranded as Memories+, since opening a new day-program centre.
“We don’t want to see people homebound,” he said - which is why the Day Program and Wellness Centre was opened on Davis Drive, “just down from the hospital,” to provide physical, cognitive, emotional and social supports.
From the Bradford West Gwillimbury side of the riding, there were representatives of The Elden of Bradford retirement residence; LOFT community services, which provides support and assisted living for adults at risk of homelessness at Bradford House; and BWG Leisure Services, offering a wide range of programming for seniors.
Members of the BWG Seniors Association, known as the Danube Seniors Leisure Centre, issued an invitation to all seniors to consider a visit and membership. The town-owned facility offers a full calendar of activities, from fitness and dancing, to card games, billiards, oil painting classes, a walking club, choir, craft room and woodworking shop, and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“Though we are located in Bradford, it’s not just for Bradford,” said Jan Evans.
CHATS (Community and Home Assistance to Seniors) operates in both South Simcoe and York Region.
CHATS CEO Christina Bisanz noted the goal of the agency is to ensure seniors can live “safely and with dignity in their own homes, as long as possible… to maintain their independence.”
Everyone is familiar with CHATS’ transportation and Meals on Wheels programs, Bisanz said, but “CHATS is much more than that,” operating adult day programs, home adaptation and support, home maintenance programs that can cut the grass in summer and shovel snow in winter, community wellness programs in Bradford and Holland Landing, and caregiver education.
“Give us a call,” Bisanz urged seniors. “We work very closely with nearly everyone in this room,” and can provide the links and connections to other agencies and programs.
“These are the kinds of organizations that we have in our community, that are available to all of us,” said East Gwillimbury Mayor Virginia Hackson, welcoming participants. “These are folks who will help you navigate around a number of challenges… It’s a wonderful display, a real variety.”
In addition to presentations by each of the 20 participating agencies, Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte MPP Doug Downey, who is the parliamentary assistant to the finance minister, spoke of proposed legislation that would waive a portion of the estate tax, or “probate fees.”
“You no longer have to pay the first $250,” Downey said – money that had been billed on the first $50,000 of an estate. He noted the decision will mean many estates will pay “zero probate tax… That’s leaving money in the pockets of normal Ontarians.”
“Our government recognizes the importance of our seniors,” said Mulroney, and wants to take steps to ensure that “as they are aging, they are doing that in the communities they love,” surrounded by the people they love.
The Conservative government has promised to build 15,000 new long-term care beds and upgrade 15,000 existing beds over the coming years, Mulroney said, and it has instituted a $100-million dental program for low-income seniors.
The government also has a strategy to end "hallway health care," she said, with plans to invest $27 billion over the next 10 years to build new hospital infrastructure.
At a table set up by Southlake Regional Health Centre, Matt Haggerty was positive about Doug Ford government's plans to modernize health care and create a more sustainable, integrated system, through the new Ontario Health Teams.
Southlake and its partners are working on a proposal for a health team, and are currently asking communities: “What are the services people are looking for? Who do we partner with? How do we address gaps in the system?”
A study last year identified four “broad themes,” Haggerty said – including the need for another facility, in the long-term (“We’re bursting at the seams,” he said); gaps in health care; the use of digital technology to address health needs; and ways of maintaining human engagement and connections in a large hospital.
Bisanz also supported the proposed Ontario Health Teams, which will aim to provide “one-window” access to services, and encourage partnerships among service providers like CHATS.
Away from the main event, Mulroney spoke of the need for all levels of government to work together, both to rein in spending and provide services – especially as the province’s population ages, and a “grey tsunami” hits the health system.
“We did our line-by-line,” Mulroney said, a budget review that saw each ministry working “very closely with all their stakeholders. I think everyone is aware of the impact of the deficit and the debt.”
The nearly $12-billion annual burden on taxpayers makes the debt the biggest “service” sector of the government, said Mulroney, who is also Ontario's attorney general.
Asked if cuts to sectors like social services, daycare and public health represented “downloading” onto the municipal governments, Mulroney was quick to say, “We understand – we know there is one taxpayer.”
She noted, “Our budget provides a path to fiscal balance over five years.” The five-year span was chosen to ease the impact of the cuts, and ensure that education and health services could be maintained. “At the same time, we have to reduce program spending across the province. We have to find new ways to deliver services,” she said.
Mulroney insisted, “We want to go ahead with some of the program funding that was promised by the previous government” – but at the same time, work with services providers to review programs and find efficiencies and savings, to curb what has become unsustainable government spending.
“We were elected to fix it,” said Mulroney. “We knew it wouldn’t be easy.”
She invited any resident with concerns about programs and cuts to contact her office at 905-895-1555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The constituency office is located at 45 Grist Mill Rd. in Holland Landing, Unit 8.