Dec. 29, 2008
FREDERICTON (CNB) - The following piece has been written by Brian Kenny, minister of state for seniors:
Our seniors built our province. They are the New Brunswickers who made our province the place where we can belong and be better. Their contributions have made New Brunswick the place we are proud to call home. They fought world wars, raised families, founded communities, and carved out the culture and quality of life we enjoy today.
Of the 107,000 seniors in New Brunswick, the vast majority are independent, engaged, and energetic. In fact, only 10 per cent receive services in nursing homes, in special care homes or through home support programs. This is a testament to their way of life, their resourcefulness as individuals and their desire to be self-sufficient.
As our senior population continues to grow, encouraging their continued healthy and active living is the key to effectively managing the anticipated increased demand for support services and nursing home beds. That is why we established the Senior and Healthy Aging Secretariat to co-ordinate the implementation of a long-term care strategy for our province.
Entitled Be Independent Longer, this strategy provides a blueprint for health promotion, active living and illness prevention, as well as a plan for the sustainability of long-term care services.
The goals set out in our strategy are attainable. Seniors have told us they want to be independent. They want to live at home for as long as possible, to be involved in family life and in their communities. They have told us they are ready to join us in our journey to make healthy aging a priority in New Brunswick.
A great deal of good work has already begun. The Government of New Brunswick, through the Senior and Healthy Aging Secretariat, is making plans to host a forum on healthy aging in 2009. We are also developing a network of community resource and day activity centres for seniors across the province. These community resource centres will provide seniors access to information on healthy lifestyles, illness prevention and disease management, and program eligibility as well as services such as foot-care and blood-pressure clinics and care-giving workshops. The day activity centres help families keep seniors at home and in their communities longer. We are also working to develop enhanced community partnerships that will offer more respite and friendly visiting services for seniors.
Today's seniors have also told us they want choices, if and when they decide they need more support. They want their care to be accessible, affordable and co-ordinated. Since the first day of our mandate, we have implemented several initiatives to improve services. We have protected seniors' assets. We have reduced the daily rates paid by seniors in nursing homes to a maximum of $70 per day. We have increased the hours of care for nursing home residents and the maximum hours of home care services.
Our government is committed to creating 700 nursing home beds during the next 10 years. To that end, we have taken an innovative approach to meeting demand by establishing a pilot partnership with Shannex New Brunswick. This partnership will allow us to open quickly 216 new nursing home beds.
To develop these projects, Shannex will invest $112 million in construction and capital costs. The beds will begin to open in 2009, with all 216 to be open by 2010. The facilities will be in Riverview, Quispamsis and Fredericton. They will be subject to the same standards of care, inspections and licensing requirements of other nursing homes in the province, and they will give seniors more choices.
We are taking concrete steps to invest in keeping seniors healthy, active and out of the long-term care system. We are creating nursing beds to reduce waiting lists and prepare New Brunswick for the demographic challenges that lie ahead. By taking action now, we will be able to ensure our seniors remain independent longer and that high quality, long-term care services continue to be available in New Brunswick for our seniors, when they need them.
Our government is committed to treating our seniors with the dignity and respect they deserve. As the new minister of state for seniors, I am honoured to be working on behalf of the province's senior population. Together, we will make our province the place to be at any age.