Good morning, and welcome to the 131st meeting of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. This meeting is being held in public.
Today, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the committee on Tuesday, June 19, 2018, we will commence our study on the challenges faced by senior women, with a focus on the factors contributing to their poverty and vulnerability.
For this, we are pleased to welcome the following witnesses in our first hour.
From the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, we have Charles MacArthur, Senior Vice-President, Assisted Housing; and Romy Bowers, Chief Commercial Officer.
From the Department of Employment and Social Development, we have Karen Hall, Director General, Social Policy Directorate, Strategic and Service Policy Branch; Catherine Scott, Director General, Community Development and Homelessness Partnerships Directorate, Income Security and Social Development Branch; Jackie Holden, Senior Director, Seniors Policy, Partnerships and Engagement Division, Income Security and Social Development Branch; as well as Patrick Bussière, Director, Social Research Division, Strategic and Service Policy Branch.
I now turn the floor over to Jackie Holden.
You will have seven minutes for your opening statement.
The Government of Canada is working to capitalize on opportunities presented by our growing and diverse population of seniors, as well as to address the challenges and provide supports that seniors need. Your study will help inform these efforts.
On August 21, 2018, the Government of Canada released “Opportunity for All: Canada's First Poverty Reduction Strategy”. The strategy sets the foundation for future government investments in poverty reduction. “Opportunity for All” lays out a bold vision of a Canada without poverty, where all Canadians—including senior women—should be able to live in dignity and have a sense of security.
The strategy establishes an official measure of poverty—the official poverty line—based on the market basket measure. lt includes concrete targets for poverty reduction, which are to reduce the rate of poverty by 20% by 2020 and by 50% by 2030, based on Canada's official poverty line. Meeting these targets will mark a significant reduction of poverty in Canada, reducing the number of Canadians living in poverty to about 10% by 2020 and to 6% by 2030, a historic low.
This year, the government is investing nearly $10 billion in support of poverty reduction, including investments through the Canada child benefit, the guaranteed income supplement and the national housing strategy. This builds on new investments in poverty reduction the government has already made, totalling $5 billion in 2016-17 and nearly $7.5 billion in 2017-18. Government efforts are already showing results. Investments will help lift about 650,000 Canadians out of poverty by 2019, with more expected as the impacts of these investments are realized in the years to come.
The government has taken several steps to improve the income security of seniors. ln 2016, the guaranteed income supplement was increased by up to $947 annually for the most vulnerable single seniors. This has improved financial security for almost 900,000 seniors and allowed approximately 57,000 Canadian seniors to exit poverty, the majority of whom are women. The government also restored the age of eligibility for the old age security pension and the guaranteed income supplement from 67 back to 65. Without this change, it is estimated that 100,000 future seniors aged 65 and 66 would have fallen into poverty. Vulnerable seniors would have been the most affected, but the least able to protect themselves by adjusting their work and savings behaviour.
We've also enhanced the Canada pension plan for today's workers—the seniors of tomorrow—including new measures that will increase CPP retirement benefits and provide larger benefits for disabled contributors, widows and widowers. We're also working to help Canada's seniors remain in the labour force for as long as they can and want to. We're doing this through new workforce development agreements with the provinces and territories, which they can use to provide support for older workers to retrain or upgrade their skills.
I would now like to discuss with you the Government of Canada's investments to address homelessness. We know that homelessness has an impact on every community in Canada. lt affects a diverse cross-section of the population, including individuals, families, youth and, of course, women and seniors. “Reaching Home: Canada's Homelessness Strategy” will replace the current homelessness partnering strategy on April 1, 2019. As part of the national housing strategy, the Government of Canada has committed $2.2 billion over 10 years to tackle homelessness. By 2021, this amount will double annual investments compared to 2015-16.
“Reaching Home” will support the goals of the national housing strategy—in particular, to support the most vulnerable Canadians in maintaining safe, stable and affordable housing and to reduce chronic homelessness nationally by 50% by 2027-28. “Reaching Home” will also work with communities to develop and deliver data-driven system plans with clear outcomes. This new outcomes-based approach will give communities greater flexibility to invest in homelessness prevention and the opportunity to identify, test and apply evidence-based practices that achieve results for vulnerable Canadians, including women and seniors.
Having said all this, as you can appreciate, living a full and healthy life goes beyond being financially stable later in life. lt is about connecting with our communities, maintaining close-knit relationships and playing a meaningful role in society. ln fact, maintaining quality of life for seniors and keeping them socially engaged in their communities is among the most pressing issues facing Canadian families today. Seniors who are lonely, isolated and generally disconnected from the community cannot lead healthy, active lives. Through initiatives like the Government of Canada's new horizons for seniors program, we are helping seniors to stay engaged and connected with their communities through volunteerism, mentoring and other community activities.
The abuse of older adults is another often hidden but serious social problem that affects the lives of thousands of seniors in Canada. Specific forms of mistreatment include physical, psychological, financial and sexual abuse and neglect.
Each year, the Government of Canada, through the new horizons for seniors program, continues to fund community-based projects to raise awareness about elder abuse. For example, the government approved over $1.1 million in funding for 53 elder abuse awareness projects across Canada in the new horizons for seniors program's 2016-17 community-based call for proposals.
As part of our commitment to seniors, we recognize the importance of engaging with Canadians and making decisions based on solid evidence. The National Seniors Council plays an important role in this regard and advises the government on issues important to the health, well-being and quality of life of seniors.
I know that there is much interest in a national seniors strategy among stakeholders. For this reason, the government has asked the National Seniors Council to further examine the potential objectives and elements of a national seniors strategy through commissioning research and leading consultations with seniors and stakeholders, for example.
Federal, provincial and territorial governments are also working together to support present and future generations of older Canadians in meaningful ways. Through all these measures, the government is seeking to improve the social and economic inclusion of all seniors.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
It's a pleasure to be here on behalf of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. I am joined today by my colleague Romy Bowers. We appreciate the opportunity to meet with the committee and support your study of the challenges facing senior women in Canada.
As Canada's national housing agency, we are keenly aware that accessing affordable housing that meets their needs is a fundamental challenge for many senior women in communities across the country. Through Canada's national housing strategy, we are actively working with a wide range of partners to better understand those needs and to close this housing gap.
As the committee is aware, the national housing strategy is a 10-year, $40-billion plan that aims to create a new generation of housing and give more Canadians a place to call home. The strategy is focused primarily on vulnerable populations, including seniors, who have special housing needs and often limited financial resources.
During the consultations on the national housing strategy, Canadians told us time and time again that the federal government's primary role in housing should be to support people who are falling through the cracks; seniors and women were often at the top of the list. We know that Canadian seniors can face huge challenges when it comes to housing. These challenges are made more difficult by escalating house prices, an aging housing stock, inadequate supply and a growing seniors population.
Almost 14% of senior-led households are in core housing need today. This means that close to 400,000 senior households are spending more than 30% of their disposable income on shelter, which leaves them less money for other basics like food, medical care and transportation. The problem is even more acute for seniors who are living alone, particularly senior women—27% of senior women living on their own are in core housing need, compared to 21% of senior men. Many senior women face economic insecurity stemming from limited pensions, minimal retirement savings and widowhood.
The national housing strategy has been designed precisely to address problems like this. In fact, 33% of all investments under this strategy are aimed to support the unique needs of women and girls, including senior women. For example, the national housing strategy includes the national housing co-investment fund, which will provide close to $16 billion in federal funding over 10 years for projects that aim to increase housing supply and repair and maintain units. Among other targets, the fund is expected to create at least 12,000 new, affordable housing units for seniors in locations where they have access to community and health services. It will also support much-needed renovations of existing community housing to allow seniors to age in place.
Just last month, the Government of Canada announced two projects under the national housing co-investment fund that will directly benefit senior women. In Porters Lake, Nova Scotia, the federal and provincial governments are jointly investing more than $650,000 to create 13 new, affordable housing units for seniors living on low incomes. The one-bedroom-plus-den units have been designed to help seniors stay in their homes longer, with features such as low-threshold showers with seats and lower kitchen cabinets. These units should be ready for occupancy this spring.
The co-investment fund is also contributing more than $4.7 million to support the construction of 100 new housing units at the YW Calgary hub facility. Although the units are not designed specifically for seniors, the Alberta Ministry of Seniors and Housing is partnering in this project, which will provide shelter and transitional housing for women experiencing domestic abuse, poverty and homelessness. All units and common areas of the building will be accessible through universal design, which of course is of great benefit to seniors.
Seniors are also benefiting from the national housing strategy investments in community housing stock, to ensure these can continue to be affordable when old operating agreements expire. Seniors currently occupy about one third of these housing units across Canada.
Beginning next year, low-income seniors will also be able to access the Canada housing benefit, which will provide an average of $2,500 per year directly to those struggling to make ends meet.
The national housing strategy will also address knowledge gaps regarding the needs of seniors and other vulnerable groups by collecting new housing data, funding new housing research and showcasing innovative approaches to housing. This work will inform future policy decisions that will improve housing conditions for senior women and others.
These national housing strategy initiatives are in addition to the $200 million set aside for seniors housing in budget 2016. More than 6,200 senior households are enjoying better housing as a result of this investment. Thousands of other senior-led households are living in better conditions thanks to the investment of $490 million, also part of budget 2016, to retrofit and renovate existing community housing units.
The national housing strategy has set measurable targets for reducing homelessness and improving access to suitable, affordable housing. However, at CMHC, we have set an even bolder goal: to ensure that by 2030, everyone in Canada will have a home they can afford and that meets their needs.
This aspiration will guide everything we do in the years to come. To that end, we are modernizing and restructuring our company to achieve housing affordability for all. Everyone at CMHC is focused on this goal, because we understand that housing is critical to Canada's economic health, social inclusiveness and the well-being of individuals, families and communities.
Thank you again for the opportunity to be here. We would be pleased to answer any questions.
ESDC has taken a number of different actions in partnership with other government departments to try to address this issue. We recognize that it's widespread and growing in terms of nature and scope.
One of the departmental priorities, as mentioned, is looking at financial abuse specifically and working with other departments. This is part of 's mandate letter. Basically, we're looking at how to best design and implement initiatives that better protect seniors dealing with financial institutions and telecommunications companies with respect to, as you said, public education and awareness to increase the odds of their being able to protect themselves.
Last December, Parliament passed new legislation, together with the new financial consumer protection framework, which advances the rights and interests of bank consumers and provides additional tools to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada is a major player in this field. They are working on the creation of a code of conduct to guide banks in the delivery of services to Canada's seniors, and they also provide significant amounts of public information that's made available through financial advisers and senior stakeholders, and made available more generally publicly.
We are also working to ensure, through the new horizons for seniors program, that awareness of financial and other types of elder abuse is increased. Between 2007 and 2015, they did lots of projects on that front.
For sure. We work with the groups that are there.
I'll talk about two things.
As part of the national housing strategy, there's the technical resource centre, which is a $70-million program for the sector by the sector. We're working with some proponents at the moment to try to finalize a contract with them so they will be able to service that capacity for the sector by the sector. That's one tool.
For individual groups that may have lost...or may not have done something for a while, coming in to get a loan or get a grant, there's work to be done. At CMHC, we've revamped some of our old tools to align them with the national housing strategy. If there's a group out there that's trying to figure out how to go about it, our seed funding program may be available for them to do the initial thinking that could help them put together their proposal, eventually, but look at the need, look at what is possible in the city.
Even municipalities have some significant tools. We met with one northern municipality yesterday. We were talking with the mayor and the city manager about the speed of approval for affordable.... That can make a significant difference, or abatement, or foregoing the tax. Cities can do that.
The reason for the partnership is that we don't want to do something that doesn't work in the community. London knows better than I know in Ottawa what projects should be there.
The other thing I would say is to talk to our folks on the ground. They will help the groups navigate. They will help the groups find the tools. The groups don't need to navigate that by themselves. We have folks out there who can say, “I know who's in London” or “I know who's in Brampton” or “I know who's in Saskatoon”, and they can help bring the projects to realization.
Thank you for the opportunity to be here today.
I am responsible for the poverty reduction strategy at ESDC. The introduction of Canada's official poverty line, as measured by the market basket measure, was a key feature of the poverty reduction strategy.
There are a number of ways to measure poverty. For example, there's the low-income measure, which is a relative measure of distribution. There is the low-income cut-off, which is a measure that's permanently grounded in the nineties but has been brought up to date. Then there is the market basket measure. The market basket measure provides the cost of a given basket of goods in 50 different regions across the country. It is quite regionally sensitive.
As part of the work for the poverty reduction strategy, there was funding, $12.1 million, going to Statistics Canada to update, refresh and review the MBM to ensure that the basket remains relevant and that we're able to have the coverage all across the country, including in the north. Those efforts are under way at StatsCan right now, and we're looking forward to the results of that work.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Mr. MacArthur, are you aware of what the tax load is per door of a unit? I mean the cumulative tax cost. You're talking about affordability here and an aspiration of making a house affordable for every Canadian by 2030. What do you propose to do regarding the fact that right now, according to the building community in this country, from the time they start a project to the time they hand the key to the new owner of that unit, or the tenant, whichever, the tax load is almost half the price of the house?
So for a $300,000 unit, $150,000 is going through the approvals process, going through the financing costs, going through the taxation level at the municipality, mainly for development charges and things like that, mainly through HST. That's almost half of the price of the house—it's not quite there yet—depending on the jurisdiction across the country. We talk about affordability. Are you addressing the overtaxation of housing?
I represent a riding, Kingston, in which we have the lowest vacancy rate in Ontario, and arguably in the country. We desperately need housing, and in particular affordable housing, as a result of having such a low vacancy rate.
Having said that, I've had the opportunity to work with housing providers, both of them in the Kingston area, and through that work, to have worked with CMHC and the various programs that have come along through the years for building affordable housing.
The national affordable housing strategy that has been introduced, using the $11 billion from the federal government, has the potential to leverage $40 billion nationally. The criticism that has come as a result of it is, “We need the money now. It all has to come right now.”
How would CMHC respond if a cheque arrived for $40 billion and it was told to spend that money immediately? How would that situation impact the individual not-for-profit housing corporations? In particular, how would they manage it?
Madam Chair, thank you.
It's great to see ESDC and CMHC friends. I had the great privilege of working with some of you in my first year in Parliament as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Social Development.
I was in fact at the meeting in which Evan Siddall first threw out the idea of a set-aside for women and girls, which we then implemented in policy and in the budget. I'm interested in how we're tracking and monitoring to ensure that we're doing what we say we will do.
The other issue a number of colleagues are interested in is why universal design isn't mandatory. Thinking 20 or 30 years down the line, we would have to retrofit anyway. This is pushing that efficiency up front. I know we have those kinds of provisions for LEED buildings, green buildings and that sort of thing.
Then I have a question for Ms. Holden regarding senior centres and the battle against loneliness, particularly among senior women. I see it very strongly in my own community. Seniors' centres are popping up. They can barely pay their expenses; they're really struggling. Do you have any suggestions for supporting these centres? A $25,000 grant just doesn't cut it.
An organization that will be appearing before us, Pembina Active Living, has just received one. They're delighted and are going to do good things with it, but we really need more of these centres, to have, as they say, “a place to go, a place to grow.”
Welcome back to the 131st meeting of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.
For the second hour, we are pleased to welcome, from the Department for Women and Gender Equality, Danielle Bélanger, Director of Strategic Policy, Policy and External Relations Directorate.
As well, from the health promotion and chronic disease prevention branch of the Public Health Agency of Canada, we have Anna Romano, Director General of the Centre for Health Promotion, and Franca Gatto, Director of the Aging, Seniors and Dementia Division.
From Statistics Canada, we have Anne Milan, Chief of the Labour Statistics Division, and Sébastien Larochelle-Côté, Editor-in-Chief of Insights on Canadian Society.
Thank you very much for coming.
We will start with seven minutes for Ms. Bélanger. You have the floor.
Good morning. I'm Danielle Bélanger, Director of Strategic Policy with the new Department for Women and Gender Equality.
Thank you very much for having me here today. I welcome the opportunity to appear before the committee to talk about senior women in Canada and how our department is working to address some of the challenges they face.
On December 13, 2018, the Department for Women and Gender Equality Act received royal assent, which transformed the former Status of Women Canada into the Department for Women and Gender Equality. This brought with it an expanded mandate for the new department for all matters relating to women and gender equality, including the advancement of social, economic and political equality, with respect to sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.
The department plays a central policy role in ensuring a more inclusive and equal society for all Canadians, and in the mainstreaming of the gender and diversity lens, also known as gender-based analysis plus, GBA+.
While we have witnessed advances in gender equality in recent years, women and LGBTQ2 communities continue to face social and economic disparities. These challenges become more acute when we account for other diversity factors, such as age. Senior women account for 55% of the senior population of Canada, yet they're among the most vulnerable in the country.
As the population of seniors continues to grow, so have the social and income gaps of Canada's most marginalized and vulnerable populations of seniors. For example, senior women are more likely than men to experience income disparity. Despite the increased participation of women in the labour market over the last several decades, factors such as the persistent gender wage gap, women being more likely to take on part-time and unpaid work, and the burden of caregiving continue to impact the economic participation of women, with lingering economic impacts well into old age.
The challenges that senior women face are further compounded by other intersecting factors, such as race, ethnicity, disability, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, citizenship status and living in a rural or remote area, to name a few. For instance, indigenous women face higher rates of economic insecurity and health challenges. About 49% of indigenous senior women are low-income, and one in ten has reported experiencing food insecurity. We also know that LGBTQ2 adults are at greater risk of physical and mental illness due to discrimination and harassment.
As was mentioned earlier, social isolation is a reality experienced by many seniors, particularly LGBTQ2 seniors. Due to a history of discrimination, exclusion and fear of stigmatization, not all LGBTQ2 seniors wish to come out openly or be included in the LGBTQ2 community. For many, moving into a seniors' residence often means going back into the closet for fear of being misunderstood or mistreated.
While some seniors experience discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, adding in other forms of discrimination based on age or physical or mental abilities compounds their isolation and vulnerability. This has a direct impact on their health.
Senior women and members of the LGBTQ2 community are also more likely to experience gender-based violence. In 2017, females accounted for over half, or 58%, of senior victims of family violence, and those senior females were most often victimized by a spouse—in 32% of cases. As with homicides in general, the non-family homicide rate was higher for male seniors than for female seniors. In contrast, however, rates of family-related homicides of female seniors were double those of senior males, at 4.4 victims per million.
Our department has worked to address these persistent challenges. In 2017, Canada launched “It's Time: Canada's Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence” to address gaps in support for diverse populations, including seniors. The strategy focuses on three pillars: prevention, support for survivors and their families, and promotion of responsive legal and justice systems.
Again, one of the central policy roles of the Department for Women and Gender Equality is around the mainstreaming of the gender and diversity lens, the gender-based analysis plus, known as GBA+. In this important role, we work to support other federal departments to ensure that policies and programs being implemented consider impacts on all Canadians.
This includes making sure we have appropriate data and research to support decision-making, developing training and tools to facilitate gender-based analysis, and tracking and reporting on progress towards these important goals. To that end, a new survey was launched in 2018, called the “Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces”. The information gathered by the survey will fill an important data gap by providing a more complete and inclusive picture of the realities of gender-based violence in Canada. Results are expected to be published in November 2019.
In order to achieve gender equality for all Canadians, and in every stage of life, we must consider the best ways to support senior women and LGBTQ2 people, while also ensuring we do better to provide the best chances to enable younger women and members of the LGBTQ2 community to successfully transition into older ages.
In closing, I would like to highlight that there is much work to be done in advancing gender equality. The formalization of the Department for Women and Gender Equality presents a historic opportunity to tackle head-on challenges to inclusive social and economic growth.
Again, thank you for the opportunity to speak here today on these important barriers. I would be happy to answer any questions you have.
Thank you for having us here today. My colleague Sébastien Larochelle-Côté and I are pleased to be here this morning on behalf of Statistics Canada to share data and analysis regarding what we currently know about the challenges facing senior women, where gaps exist in our data holdings and how we could potentially address these gaps.
We know that the senior population is growing quickly and that women are overrepresented among those aged 65 and over. Between 2011 and 2015, the number of seniors grew 20%, four times the growth rate for all age groups. With increasing life expectancy, people will be spending about two decades, on average, as seniors.
It should be noted that, while Canada does have an aging population, it has the second-lowest proportion of seniors among the G7 countries, after the United States. The share in Canada is below Japan, Italy, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. In fact, you may recall that in the United Kingdom, last year, their Prime Minister added “loneliness” to the Ministry for Sport and Civil Society. This highlighted a recognition that there's a need to combat the social and health issues caused by isolation.
Loneliness is certainly a reality for many people, which is why there's such interest in those who are living on their own. Women represent the majority of seniors living alone, although the share has fallen over the past several decades. In contrast, women are more likely to be part of a couple until older ages, and this is primarily because men are living longer. This could result in more social and physical support.
The current generation of senior women, similar to all generations, is a product of the socio-historical context in which particular cohorts have lived. Some younger seniors today are members of the large baby boom generation, while older seniors were born prior to World War II. This context will shape many of the experiences throughout their lives in areas such as family formation, gender roles and participation in the labour market. As younger generations grow older, greater diversity can be expected when these cohorts reach their senior years.
While we recognize that seniors are a heterogenous group, with younger seniors generally being more active and healthier than older seniors, there are greater needs as they age. For example, demand for residential care increases with age, and this disproportionately affects senior women. In 2016, at age 85 and over, there are three times as many women compared with men living in collective dwellings such as residences for seniors and nursing homes.
Senior women not living with family members have a number of vulnerabilities, including a higher likelihood of being below the poverty line. According to Statistics Canada's market basket measure, which is Canada's official poverty line, senior women who lived alone or with non-family members in 2016 were about twice as likely to be below the poverty line, compared with all senior women.
The incidence of poverty and low income can be exacerbated by other characteristics, such as the presence of a disability, aboriginal status and immigrant status. However, poverty does tend to decrease during the senior years, largely because of government programs such as GIS and OAS. Without these two programs, the poverty rate of seniors would be five times larger than it is now. Government programs also contribute to reducing the intensity of poverty.
Another significant issue is whether seniors have enough savings. According to the survey of financial security, the median net worth of unattached senior women was slightly over a quarter of a million dollars in 2016, compared with $264,000 among unattached senior men, and $730,000 among senior couples. The lack of savings can be problematic, especially if seniors require care over a long period of time. The financial situation of senior women can also vary depending on their marital status. For example, a widow may have greater financial resources than a divorced woman.
Senior women, particularly those who live alone, might not participate as much as they would like, given that they have less access to a vehicle. Without access to a car or public transport, it can be more difficult to go out, which may be why senior women are less likely than senior men to meet the minimum requirements for physical activity. On the other hand, seniors with a car and driver's licence are more likely to do volunteer work. Seniors with disabilities, including mobility problems, are particularly more likely to face transportation challenges.
The social networks of seniors can play a key role in their well-being and can be a source of emotional and practical support. Senior women are more likely to receive paid or unpaid help with daily activities than senior men, and transportation is the most common form of unpaid help. Senior women are more apt to receive unpaid help from their daughters, while for senior men it more often comes from their spouse. This also has consequences for working-age women who have to manage these responsibilities.
About twice as many senior women have unmet home care needs compared with senior men. In terms of absolute numbers, this is the largest age and sex group. As a proportion of those who reported that they needed home care, however, the share of senior women who had unmet home care needs was in the 30% range, compared with over 50% for women aged 35 to 49.
Although they do face some challenges that we have highlighted, it's also important to keep in mind that senior women reported relatively high levels of life satisfaction and good health, regardless of whether they lived alone or with others. Among seniors who lived alone, women were more likely to be satisfied with life and to be in good health compared with men.
In closing, we do have some rich sources of data to examine the challenges facing senior women. We also have data forthcoming from a number of surveys that will help shed light on issues of interest to this committee. Building on these datasets through linkages with administrative data would allow us to more fully examine some important issues affecting senior women.
However, some key gaps exist in our administrative data. For example, there's little information on people living in residential care facilities. These seniors may face different challenges than those who are still living in their homes. We know little about the type of care received, health conditions, housing costs and social interactions of residents in such institutions. Policy-makers would no doubt benefit from additional data on this topic.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. We look forward to your questions.
Thank you for the invitation to address this committee. I'm pleased to contribute to your study by speaking about the role of the Public Health Agency of Canada in addressing challenges faced by senior women.
Starting with the current public health picture, the fact that more Canadians are living longer is a public health triumph. The aging population also means that the prevalence of chronic diseases is expected to increase. With advances in treatment and management of diseases, persons aged 65 years and older are likely to live longer with one or more chronic conditions. I'm going to go over those now.
In terms of dementia, while dementia is not a normal part of aging, age is the strongest known risk factor for dementia. Dementia disproportionately impacts Canadian women, and the majority of family/friend caregivers of people with dementia are female. Women aged 65 years and older are more likely than men to be diagnosed with dementia. Given Canada's aging population, the number of people diagnosed with dementia is expected to increase. It is projected that by 2031 the total annual health care cost for Canadians with dementia will have doubled.
While many seniors maintain good mental health, mental illnesses later in life often occur within the context of life transitions, losses, chronic illness, disability or social isolation. Senior women are more likely than men to use health services for mood and anxiety disorders. Senior women are also disproportionately affected by musculoskeletal conditions. They are about four times more likely to be diagnosed with osteoporosis than men. Fractures, the primary complication of osteoporosis, are higher among women than men, and women are approximately two times more likely to fracture a hip. In addition, women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and 1.5 times as likely to be diagnosed with osteoarthritis.
Falls have a significant physical and mental health consequence for older adults and families and threaten independent living. Falls are the leading cause of older adult traumatic brain injury; 20% to 30% of seniors experience at least one fall each year. Of those seniors who experience a fall, close to 20% will die within one year of the fall. Older women, particularly those over 75 years of age, experience higher rates of fall-related injuries and hospitalizations than men.
In terms of what the Public Health Agency of Canada is doing with our investments and initiatives, I'll start with surveillance. In collaboration with provinces and territories, the agency conducts national chronic disease surveillance to support the development and evaluation of related policies, programs and services. We're currently developing a report on seniors aged 65 years and older that will provide a snapshot of their health. As much as possible, data will be disaggregated by sex to highlight patterns unique to women and men. The report is expected to be released in 2020.
In 2018, the Government of Canada invested $75 million in the healthy seniors pilot project in New Brunswick to fund a range of applied research initiatives that will provide useful information for governments and stakeholders across the country on how to better support seniors in their homes, communities and care facilities. This will help us to better understand the different challenges that women and men face.
The agency also works closely with provinces and territories, as well as the World Health Organization, on the age-friendly communities initiative. Under the AFC initiative, older adults and community leaders are working together in more than 1,200 communities across Canada to create supportive physical and social environments so that seniors can live safely, enjoy good health and be active. The agency has developed tools to help communities implement and evaluate AFC initiatives.
More recently, in 2019, PHAC announced funding of $250,000 to Parachute Canada for its pan-Canadian seniors' fall prevention network. This is a project in collaboration with other organizations. Parachute Canada will create an online hub for individuals and health professionals, making it easier for them to find tools, resources and information related to fall prevention and recovery.
In terms of the dementia file, starting in 2019, the dementia community investment is a new program that will provide $4 million per year to support community-based projects to improve the well-being of people living with dementia, as well as the family members and/or friends who care for them. The Public Health Agency is also leading the development of a national dementia strategy. The strategy is expected to be released in spring 2019.
The pan-Canadian health inequalities reporting initiative aims to strengthen the measurement, monitoring and reporting of health inequalities in Canada through improved access to data.
As part of this initiative, an interactive, publicly accessible data tool was developed. The tool can be found online, and it includes 70 indicators for health for up to 13 different socio-economic and socio-demographic population groups. The data tool currently provides rates by age group and by sex for indicators meaningful to seniors' health, such as those related to housing, health care, food insecurity and community belonging. Additional data on health inequalities among seniors is expected to be made available in 2020.
PHAC is also systematically applying the Government of Canada's renewed commitment to sex and gender-based analysis, SGBA+, which my colleague Danielle referenced. We're applying this to our science, policies and programs to consider the potential differential impacts on diverse groups of men and women, girls and boys.
In conclusion, we know that the needs of senior women are diverse. Some may need extra support to stay in their homes and to find the appropriate services to enable them to do so. Some need access to activities or programs that help them stay active and involved in their communities. Many senior women are interested in finding ways to maintain and improve both their physical and mental health.
Thank you for your attention. I'd be pleased to answer any questions.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thanks to all the witnesses for coming today. It was good to hear your testimonies.
My questioning will be mostly about some minority groups. I know it's important that the government apply a gender lens to all its programs and decisions, and I'm very glad to hear that we are undertaking this study. It is pretty clear to me—and I suspect the evidence will bear this out—that senior women face certain unique challenges around poverty and vulnerability.
I also believe that it is important that we apply an ethnic lens, and that's something I will be focusing more on today. I represent a riding that has a big group of majority-minority communities, and we have a lot of minority senior women. I hear about their unique challenges around language, integration and cultural needs every day in my riding.
My first question is for the Department for Women and Gender Equality. How would you describe the department's undertaking of the challenges faced by minority women? How do you address them in your programming?
The definition of poverty in this slide is the MBM, the market basket measure. This is a basket of goods and services that you require to meet your basic needs and achieve a modest standard of living. If you are below a certain threshold, then you're considered to be under the poverty line.
This was developed recently. Essentially, the threshold varies from region to region, so it takes into consideration variations in the cost of living across the country. The basket of goods itself includes things such healthy food, appropriate shelter, home maintenance, clothing and transportation, as well as other goods and services that permit engagement in a community. As you can see, it's a number of items. It's a fairly complicated measure in terms of how it's calculated, but it's fairly simple to understand. I can give you an example: For a family of one, it's slightly above $20,000. That's the amount of money that's considered the minimum to meet the poverty line.
This measure will be reviewed in the future. The idea of the MBM is that it's not constant. It's not fixed in time, so it will be reviewed over subsequent years to see if it continues to.... Essentially, it will be changing over time. I can give you more information about it, should you require it.
I'll share with Eva. I wish we had more time. It's a great topic.
I'm doing my own longitudinal study on aging.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. Bob Bratina: Also, I'm including my grandparents of 104, 103, 98, 95, and 90, and I've made lots of observations about their care.
First of all, Ms. Bélanger, have you looked at the impact that a basic income would have on the problems and related costs of what you have presented?