Being a senior has its benefits, and those benefits shouldn’t be limited to those aged 65 and older, according to a motion presented at city council last night.
Katherine Ham and Marilyn Ottenhof addressed council on why it should change the city’s definition of a senior citizen to 60 years old from 65.
“It will save us all money in the long run,” Ham said.
“The more we invest in seniors’ ability to participate in these kinds of activities, the less we’ll cost the taxpayers in our old age, when we’re in homes.”
Ham was referring to the Aquafit program at Artillery Park, which she and Ottenhof both participate in regularly.
“It’s helped me with my blood pressure, that’s for sure,” said Ottenhof, noting that Kingston has the highest concentration of senior citizens with cardio-respiratory illness, and with arthritis, in the province.
“For these types of illnesses, (Aquafit) is one of the only activities to help with that,” she said.
Both women feel that limiting the designated age of seniors to 65 and older leaves a large group of those who could benefit from the title of “senior” without.
“People aged 60 and up don’t have a lot of money to live off,” Ham said.
“These people should be able to get the rates of those 65-plus at city facilities.”
The motion Ham and Ottenhof were speaking in support of was moved by councillor Jim Neill, and seconded by Mayor Mark Gerretsen, due to the fact that Canadians become eligible for Canadian Pension Plan at the age of 60, which is the recognized age for seniors both federally and provincially. Additionally, the previous designated age of senior citizens was 55, and is now defined as 65, the motion read.
“I’d like to share some statistics with you,” Ottenhof said, addressing council.
The Kingston area has the largest proportion of people over 65 in Ontario, she said, most of them women.
There is also a higher proportion of low income households, yet the cost of living is higher in Kingston, Ottenhof explained.
“There seems to be an assumption that older people are well off,” said Ham.
“Some of them are, but many are not.
“Some with pensions still struggle to make ends meet,” Ham continued.
“We’re not getting rich.”
The population health profile for South East Local Health Integration Network says there is a higher prevalence of obesity in its region than most others, Ham said.
It also has the highest prevalence of arthritis and heart disease, she explained, and higher use of hospitals by senior citizens.
The women noted that they were impressed by the city’s sustainability plan, specifically the area pertaining to affordable and accessible recreational activities for all, including senior citizens and low-income families.
However, they noted, the 2011 seniors’ aquafit pass at Artillery Park increased by 50% in the one year from 2010 rates.
Only one question was asked of Ham and Ottenhof regarding the delegation.
“What advice would you give me to reconcile the fact that there are many children in my constituency who cannot afford to participate in athletic activities, like hockey, when I am faced with the decision to possibly lower costs to seniors at the expense of the city?” Councillor Rick Downes asked.
Ham said she would refer him to the age old adage that prevention is cheaper than paying later.
Ottenhof said that seniors are part of that picture, as well.
“We actually found in our investigation that Toronto has pools for public use free of charge,” Ottenhof said.
“That would be nice to have here.”
Council asked city staff to prepare and present a report to the Arts, Recreation and Community Policies Committee outlining the impacts of changing its policies to recognize 60 as the acknowledged age of seniors.
The motion passed 9-2. Councillor Bryan Paterson and Councillor Jeff Scott voted against the motion.
The Whig Standard