Better with Age: Health systems planning for the aging population

Synthesis Report

Full report (440 KB)

Demographers have predicted for decades that the proportion of older adults in Canada would grow as the baby boom generation ages, yet our healthcare system has not yet sufficiently adapted. Calls for policies and sustainable reforms to address the needs of older Canadians—which would also better serve the needs of the overall population—abound. There is general consensus around what needs to be done—but the question of how to get there remains.

To help respond to these questions, the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation (CHSRF) hosted one national and five regional roundtables in six cities as part of its series Better with Age: Health systems planning for the aging population in October and November 2010. The roundtables brought together more than 200 policy-makers, regional healthcare executives, researchers and citizen representatives from across Canada.

This synthesis report provides an overview of the key themes that emerged from all six roundtables (separate reports on each roundtable are available here). The views reported reflect the comments made by the participants in the sessions; the accuracy of these views has not been determined by CHSRF.

The main message from the roundtables was very clear: now is the time to formulate policies and implement sustainable reforms that will improve healthcare for the growing number of older Canadians. These reforms will improve the care available to Canadians of all ages.

Key Policy Messages

  • Promote a positive view of aging and address ageism.
  • Adapt the acute-care-centred model of healthcare to address the new reality of health (longer life with more chronic disease) by, in part, placing more emphasis on population health issues (such as adequate housing and nutrition) and implementing more initiatives to prevent injury and disease and promote health.
  • Clarify leadership roles of the federal, provincial and territorial governments with respect to improving the health system for older adults and identify who is accountable for system management and change.
  • Move to a client-centred model of care, whereby health and social services are provided and coordinated in ways that better meet the needs of older adults.
  • Consult with citizens to better understand what patients want in their healthcare; citizens can provide important insights into how to improve healthcare and public pressure creates the political will to change.
  • Move to an integrated system of care that would coordinate health and social services, improve communication between patients and service providers and offer more timely access to the appropriate services. This includes improving access to community care and long-term care to improve health outcomes, save money, and decrease “alternate-level-care” patients in hospitals.
  • Address issues unique to specific population groups. For example, many Aboriginal people have limited access to transportation and housing and have higher than average incidence of chronic disease. Recent immigrants and Francophone Canadians in minority settings may not be able to receive care in their language of choice.
  • Adopt better quality-control measures related to prescription drug practices and long-term care settings.
  • Promote healthcare financing models that support more flexible, cost-effective service delivery, quality and access to health services.
  • Address health human resources issues, including improving the recruitment, retention and training of professional and unpaid caregivers who work with older adults.


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