Honourable senators, October 1 is National Seniors Day.
This day was established in 2010 to celebrate the valuable contribution of seniors to our families, our workplaces and our country. It is a perfect occasion to honour seniors for their hard work and accomplishments and to learn about the challenges they face.
Seniors represent the fastest-growing segment of the Canadian population. Last year, for the very first time, there were more Canadians over the age of 65 than under the age of 14.
In the meantime, Canadian seniors continue to face a number of challenges. Every day many are diagnosed with conditions such as dementia, heart disease or diabetes. Others experience a loss of independence due to functional or mobility limitations that can make everyday tasks more difficult to accomplish. At the same time, access to health and social services is limited, and wait times for priority procedures are increasing.
Also, a number of seniors are living in poverty and are vulnerable to homelessness. Countless others struggle with physical, psychological or financial mistreatment.
We have heard warnings of this demographic shift for years. We were warned of its potential impact on our economy, our health care system and society as a whole. Yet, despite an ongoing debate over the best policy responses, we have not taken comprehensive steps to better address the needs of our aging population.
Colleagues, it is safe to say that the majority of us are seniors, or we have family members, friends and neighbours who are seniors. As a result, we are able to understand the importance of maintaining our independence and continuing to enjoy a long and full life.
As senators, we are in a unique position to support efforts that empower older Canadians. Therefore, I invite you to join me in calling on the federal government to appoint a minister responsible for seniors and to ensure the development of a national seniors' strategy is made an immediate priority.
By officially recognizing Canada's aging population as one of the most important issues, we can positively influence the lives of those who need us the most.
To conclude, I encourage you to celebrate National Seniors Day on October 1. Let us take the time to thank seniors for all they have done to make our country a more prosperous and beautiful place to live, and to think further about how we can help make their lives even better.
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