Aboriginal seniors are the most vulnerable segment of society and unless there is a coordinated approach the cost in human and economic terms will be staggering.
The conclusion was drawn by the National Health Council of Canada which did an extensive review of the health crises facing an aging aboriginal population.
The health council of Canada says there are many factors contributing to poor health including poverty, isolation, housing, and poor diet.
Chronic health conditions like diabetes and obesity are also much higher in the aboriginal community placing seniors at greater risk of chronic health problems.
The C.E.O. of the health council of Canada, John Abbott, says for the most part the problem has been ignored.
“Conditions in most aboriginal communities would not be tolerated in main stream communities in the rest of Canada, so knowing that, what is someone going to do about it?”
Abbott says there are solutions. He says they are community based with the support of other levels of government. He cites the Peter Ballantyne Band in Saskatchewan as a community that is looking after its elderly.
“The leadership has come together and said, this is an area we need to focus on and they have created a regional plan to address that and they now have a stable and structured and well supported home and community care program. “
Abbott says in order to address the problem, governments have to put politics aside and listen to community leaders about what is working and what needs to be done
“You know that is easy to say, but all the research supports that but governments have been very slow to react to that.”
Abbott is optimistic, he says there are lots of examples of where the situation is improving, but he cautions there is much work to be done.
He says band aid solutions have not worked in the past and will not work in the future.
He says this report is aimed at raising awareness, looking at solutions and encouraging a coordinated approach to dealing with a problem that will soon turn into a crises.