Peel Health Prepares for Aging Population
(Brampton) – With Peel’s senior population expected to nearly triple by 2021, Peel Health believes it is critical to plan for seniors’ health-care needs.
In the latest of its series of health status reports, Seniors’ Health Report–2006, Peel Public Health examines the health concerns facing seniors today and makes recommendations to look after the health of this growing population well into the future.
“As the population ages in Peel, seniors will need a comprehensive infrastructure to look after their health needs,” says Dr. Megan Ward, Associate Medical Officer of Health for the Region of Peel.
Currently, there is only one Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care mandatory public health program requirement specifically for seniors. It addresses falls in the elderly. While one in three Canadian seniors will experience a fall, there are a number of other serious health issues facing this population.
“The first step is to ask, ‘What are the major health issues that impact the health of seniors today?’ By answering this question, we can analyse the underlying causes and find ways to help seniors live healthier,” says Dr. Ward.
In Peel and Ontario, ischemic heart disease remains the leading cause of death among male and female seniors.
Colorectal, lung, and prostate cancers accounted for almost half of all newly diagnosed cancers among Peel seniors in 2002. Breast cancer was the most frequently diagnosed cancer among female seniors in Peel, while prostate cancer was the most frequently diagnosed cancer among male seniors in Peel.
Dr. Ward says that many of these ailments can be improved by giving people the supports to live a healthier lifestyle.
“We need to focus our attention on designing programs specific to the needs and circumstances of seniors. Programs that facilitate healthy eating and physical activity can improve general health, decrease obesity and consequently its related health concerns,” says Dr. Ward.
Obesity in seniors has been linked to both poor health and inactivity. In 2003, half of all seniors in Peel were overweight or obese, 58 per cent of seniors reported being physically inactive while 47 per cent failed to eat the daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables.
While facing numerous health conditions, life expectancy for both males and females has generally increased. In 2001, 65-year-old males living in Peel could expect to live another 18.4 years and 65-year-old females living in Peel could expect to live an additional 20.9 years.
“Ailing health has an enormous impact on the quality of life. We want to ensure the best quality of life for seniors. Considering the needs of seniors when constructing an urban plan for a healthy community and potential health coverage gaps is a major step in doing this,” says Dr. Ward.
Another issue of concern is oral health. Less than half of Peel seniors reported that they had seen a dentist or orthodontist at least once in the past year. The problem is in part due to lack of dental coverage as well as lack of awareness of the importance of good oral health care to overall health.
The list of ailments and accompanying medications tends to increase as seniors age. In Canada, more than one quarter of female seniors and 16 per cent of male seniors reported taking at least five types of medications. Taking more than one drug increases the chances of incorrect medication use, harmful interactions between medications and adverse effects that can have extremely serious consequences.
“Strategies developed in partnership with pharmacists, drug retailers and other health professionals are needed to reduce the adverse effects of substance use on seniors and address the issue of seniors using multiple medications through multiple pharmacies,” adds Dr. Ward.
Currently, Peel Health provides programs to promote a healthy lifestyle for the general population. Peel Public Health runs a prevention program against falls in seniors and also addresses medication use through a campaign that relates to risk factors for falls and related strategies for prevention. The Region of Peel also operates five long-term care centres throughout Peel.
The series of Peel Health status reports highlight key health issues and trends affecting residents of the Region of Peel. For more information on the Seniors’ Health Report–2006 or other Peel Health status reports, call Region of Peel-Public Health or visit peelregion.ca.