July 28, 2014 6:45 pm

Access to affordable health care among elderly’s biggest worries: study

MONTREAL – A new poll suggests that Canadians are living longer – in fact, by 2061, there will be more than 78,000 centenarians living Canada. And according to a BMO report called “Living to 100: The Four Keys to Longevity,” one of the biggest concerns among this country’s elderly population is access to affordable healthcare.

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“I’ve had a bypass, I’ve had hip replacement, broken shoulder, so I’ve been around the block a few times,” says Issie, a Montreal senior citizen who knows a thing or two about growing older in Canada’s medical system.

“When you get to a certain age,” he continues, “if you don’t have enough money, it’s a big problem.”

He’s not alone in his opinion. In fact, three-quarters of those polled feel that health and medical costs will have the biggest impact on their senior years.

Patients’ rights advocate Paul Brunet says, “it’s shocking and troubling that elderly people are preoccupied for access to medical attention, whereas they have paid income taxes all their lives.”

He argues the problem has deep roots in the state of our healthcare system.

“The system does not do the job for which it is paid for, so we better have good answers in the next federal elections.”

BMO’s Jean Richard believes the poll speaks to some very reasonable concerns.

“I think some people are concerned with the health care system,” he says, “but I’m not sure it’s my capacity to say how and what should be done.”

The bank commissioned the poll with the hopes of better understanding what kind of financial worries Canadians face as life expectancy increases.

“We have to know what are the needs of our client if we want to serve them well,” says Richard. “We have to be ahead of the actual market.”

According to the poll, Canadians expect to pay, on average, a little over $5,000 per year out of pocket, for medical expenses — this is after the age of 65. So what does that say about Canada’s so-called free universal healthcare? A sample of comments from seniors at a Montreal shopping centre provides some insight:

“Free? That’s funny! Because a lot of people charge extra… you know that!”

“It is something that concerns me because with the government cutting back on services, if you want something, you gotta pay for it.”

“If you have to go into a senior residence, it’s very costly, and the government…they look after you in the hospital, but not senior residence.”

Brunet is calling on health ministers to take action to rectify the situation.

“I’m fed up,” he says. “I wanna see [Quebec health minister] Mr. Barrett for real reorganization of the healthcare system.”

Others, like Miriam and Sam Smith, a golden-aged couple out for a stroll at Montreal’s Cavendish Mall, are content to roll with the punches:

“We take one day at a time, we work it out. And if we can’t we’ll worry about it then.”

© Shaw Media, 2014

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