October 2, 2012
Honourable senators, less than two kilometres from this chamber one will find the Good Companions Seniors’ Centre. It was my privilege to be invited there by my parents for breakfast and a visit not long ago.
What I saw is a place of exceptional warmth and energy where seniors gather to socialize and exercise, develop new skills and renew old interests. Whether it is for precooked meals seniors can purchase for home, birthday parties with cake for all or frequent in-house concerts, Good Companions Seniors’ Centre is ultimately more than a meeting place; it is a community. In-house services include clinics for footcare, blood pressure, and walker and wheelchair repair. The centre also acts as a liaison connecting seniors in need with community support services such as snow removal, home maintenance and grocery delivery. In short, Good Companions is a fantastic resource for Ottawa’s seniors.
This centre could not operate without the dedication and commitment of over 400 volunteers, many of whom are seniors themselves. Senior women make a particularly strong contribution. In 2008, approximately one in three senior women had done some form of volunteer work. In fact, a 2007 Statistics Canada report found that seniors aged 65 and older gave more volunteer hours on average than any other age cohort.
It was only recently that informal caregiving was recognized as an important form of volunteerism. Statistics Canada estimates there are 3.8 million Canadians aged 45 and older providing informal care to someone with a short- or long-term health condition. About a quarter of these caregivers are seniors. Informal caregiving has an enormous impact. It enables seniors to continue living at home and it reduces the strain on the health care system.
Honourable senators, these facts speak volumes. They tell us that seniors continue to contribute to society long after retirement. They also reveal the spirit of these contributions, characterized by a keen sense of compassion and an unwavering dedication to community values.
Yesterday, October 1, was National Seniors Day. On this occasion we should recognize excellent organizations dedicated to seniors in our communities. More important, we pay tribute to seniors themselves. They are a resource to our society and their valuable contributions — past, present and future — shape this country.