Anglo seniors getting a helping hand from federal government
MONTREAL -- Anglophone seniors in Quebec are now getting moral support, but no extra funding, from the federal commissioner of official languages, Graham Fraser.
Fraser said the province's anglophone population is older and more educated, but still has almost as many senior citizens living below the poverty line as their francophone counterparts.
"Often people who are in their late eighties are feeling pretty vulnerable by whatever the language being offered by the health institution so this simply adds to the challenges, the difficulties, the problems, the vulnerabilities of an already vulnerable population," he said.
In an effort to improve the situation, Fraser has created the Seniors Action Quebec network, which has as a goal improving the lives of senior citizens in the province.
The Seniors Action Quebec network will lobby federal institutions to make sure they consult with members of minority language groups, especially when creating programs that affect seniors.
“Seniors have pressing needs and they don't have time to wait to wait for those needs to be met because their time is very limited. We want to make sure that the governments will respond quickly and more meaningfully to offer better services,” said David Cassidy, president of Seniors Action Quebec.
Fraser said most anglophones in their retirement years also face another challenge: being unilingual.
A total of 52 per cent of retired anglophones do not speak French according to recent census data, and almost half of those who consider themselves anglophones are immigrants.
As a result retired anglophones are more isolated than francophones, and find it harder to get access to necessary information provided on government websites.
While many of them have bilingual children, the mass exodus of the anglophone community over the past several decades means those children are often in another province or country.
That exodus has also shifted the makeup of the towns and cities where seniors live.
There are now more anglophone seniors in the Eastern Townships and in the Laurentians than their francophone counterparts -- but in those areas, roughly 85 per cent of nurses and caregivers are unilingual francophones, said Fraser.
Longtime seniors’ leader and advocate Sheila Goldbloom believes the new group can be an agent for change.
“Anything that begins, you always have volunteers that are very active and have a vision and a dream and then you come to where we go next,” she said.
The network is a step in the right direction, said Goldbloom, though there is still a challenge facing it – with a lack of funding, it relies strictly on volunteers. The group has applied for several grants in hopes of receiving financial support to impact real change.