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What do Residents of Old People’s Homes and Jailed Offenders have in common?

posted Jun 2, 2011, 6:01 PM by Esther Matharu

There are many similarities and many differences. A few of the more glaring issues  are listed below for us to reflect on and hopefully think of what we can do about the situation.

For one, jails receive approximately $20 per day for food. Homes for the aged receive $7.42 for each pensioner to cover their three meals a day.  Is it that old bodies need less fuel to keep running because they run on slow?

Incarcerated persons receive free TV, free cable, free Yoga lessons and exercise programs. Old people in our Ontario homes have to pay for all this from their own or their children’s pockets - if they have any (children that is!).

Prisoners receive free education, library books and newspapers. Old people have to pay for access to knowledge. Maybe they are not expected to need any more stimulation as their brains are shutting down soon anyway.

Old people pay for their own phones.  Isolation and loneliness is a very real problem for the ageing. But on the other hand, this could be a relief to many families (Not your mother again! What does she want this time?).

Other differences: Old people in nursing homes are not allowed to bring in any extra hot food but they are allowed pop and drink in their fridges.  Old people still pay taxes on their meager pensions. Prisoners don’t.

Here are some similarities: Pets are not allowed either in Jail or in Homes. Both live in sparsely furnished enclosures. Old people are provided with a bed, one dresser, two side tables and an extra chair.

As for narcotics, persons in jail get narcotics on the sly and have to pay for it, but old people get it injected for free. Once they are given the first dose, usually an opiate, hydro-morphine or Oxycodone, it is downhill all the way.  Whereas for prisoners, the drugs keep them high, old people go down, down all the way, drugged to the grave.

I know I’m next on long list (500 on the current waiting list for one of Ottawa’s three Old People’s Homes) but to tell you the truth I don’t want to end up in an old people’s home. Do you? However, if like me, you are an aging woman, then you better not believe that you can escape the probability of being poor and a candidate for the long waiting list to get in a Home.

Older Canadian women have high poverty rates. A recent study by the National Union of Public and General Employees  is critical of recent federal government policies that have helped contribute to women’s poverty.

“Since coming to power in 2006, the Harper government has seriously undermined progress towards reducing women’s poverty in Canada,” Townson says. “Among a long list of policies, Harper has restricted pay equity, refuses to fix EI to prevent more unemployed women from falling into poverty, and cut funding for early learning and child care.”[1]

 We need to join up together to bring dignity to our older parents and remember that our turn is coming soon.

Outgoing Auditor General Sheila Fraser told a luncheon crowd at the Canadian Club of Ottawa[2] that she was “worried about the pressures of an aging population, the impact of climate change and aging infrastructure" facing the government, as well as living conditions on First Nations reserves”.

Aging population is us, you and I. Especially women, who live longer than men, according to the stats.

In her Keynote address to the WE*ACT Conference on Women and Pensions, Vancouver, November 3, 2001, Monica Townson, wrote:

Governments continue to cut public sector provision of social services. They seem to expect that these services can be provided at “no cost” by families. Add to that an increased demand for eldercare as the population ages and you can see the kind of challenge women are likely to face. As well, coverage of workplace pension plans has been dropping and women’s lower earnings still make it difficult for them to set aside private savings for their old age.

At the same time as women are facing these challenges, pension policy is moving away from the collective responsibility which has been fundamental to Canada’s public pension programs. Policy makers have been preoccupied with the cost of public pensions. There is pressure to reduce benefits. There is also a strong lobby that wants to privatize the public pension system and shift responsibility on to individuals, who will increasingly be expected to save for themselves and provide their own retirement incomes. Women will find it particularly difficult to do this. To the extent that they are not able to do so, poverty among older women may increase in future, unless policies can be developed to address their needs[3].

Another article that raises good questions on the social costs and solutions on Canada's crime and punishment by Barry ORegan , August 12, 2010 is to be found at the following: http://www.nowpublic.com/world/social-costs-and-solutions-canadas-crime-and-punishment

There are two actions out of many that we can be doing. One is to link up with all the organizations that are involved with women and women issues and have a joint action plan and strategy to respond to the looming crisis; the second is to petition our MPs, with cc to the PM, requesting that they urgently take into account the numerous studies showing the trend of our growing impoverishment of the aging female (and male) as they seek to bring about policy changes. Take Sheila Fraser’s warnings seriously.

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