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EDITORIAL: Crunch that simply can’t be put off

Any politicians who ignore seniors and issues affecting them do so at their own peril.

That won’t be a startling revelation to any of them. Nor should it be that such advice is ever-the-more critical in a rapidly aging population.

The provincial NDP know this, and are focusing on some of the ramifications, in particular money for seniors homes.

Leader Gary Burrill was in Pictou County this week for a nomination meeting that saw Deborah Stiles selected to run for the party in Pictou East.

Burrill squarely addressed cuts to nursing homes in this county and others across the province, something he says means a hit on food quality, recreational programming and care in general.

Henderson Paris, NDP candidate in Pictou Centre – and former chair of Glen Haven Manor – makes the point that everyone knows someone in a nursing home. That makes us familiar with what’s at stake. Paris vouches for the dedication and professionalism of staff in these homes, and calls it disgraceful and morally wrong to cut back in the area.

These observations come as many feel an election announcement is imminent. Burrill said if the NDP were elected, they would reverse these cuts.

It’s good for the party – any of them for that matter – to be optimistic about chances of forming the next government. But all three would do well to pay attention to this demographic.

Keep in mind, too, that this offers an easy target for opposition politicians – cuts in recent years felt by seniors particularly after the feel-good spending announcements from the Stephen McNeil Liberals, which are generally interpreted as pre-election goodies.

Movement in addressing the crunch faced by an aging population can’t be put off, unless someone’s figured out how to make time stand still. Although the warning has been issued many times, we have yet to see strategies rolled out – involving the provinces and federal government – to address what is often described as a tsunami of dementia cases the country will face in the near future.

Work by the government with programs helping to keep people in their homes longer is by all means commendable. But the inevitability of a growing number ultimately deemed to need 24-hour care in a home has to be a priority.

Seniors still make up a significant proportion among voters. Perhaps the numbers aren’t as high among those in nursing homes, particularly once they are running into cognitive difficulties.

But their families are keeping close track of what the province is doing – or isn’t doing. And those with their senior years creeping up on them realize it’s only a matter of time before they could end up needing nursing home care. They’ll want assurances the care will be there for them.

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