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Older people in Saskatoon felt 'lack of compassion' as the COVID-19 death toll mounted for seniors: survey

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A new report finds that older residents in Saskatoon felt isolated and less respected during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report, Beyond the Pandemic, is based on surveys and focus groups held by the Saskatoon Council on Aging.

"On average, older adults' health decline, and they felt less safe, less connected, less respected, and less like they belong," the report said.

 Over half of those surveyed said they felt the death of a younger individual was taken more seriously than that of an older individual, according to the report.

"We heard from older adults that they felt that ageist perceptions were perpetuated and were more overt in our society. These ageist perceptions included the lack of compassion for the deaths of elderly people caused by COVID-19," the report authors said.

Another issue identified in the report was the divisiveness in society since the onset of the pandemic.

"Every focus group commented that their relationships were negatively impacted by the politicization of the pandemic."

Jane McPhee, one of the authors and a volunteer with the council, said older residents have a clear vision of their healing role.

"They really feel they have a role in healing some of the rifts that developed during the pandemic," she told CTV News. "Many of them felt very isolated. Family members and friends had differing opinions about things that happened and they really felt that they could contribute to making that better."

Older residents also said they missed their volunteer activities and as caregivers and grandparents for their families.

"They really felt like the ways that they were able to contribute to the community were really curtailed during the public health measures and the lockdown," McPhee said.

One common complaint was that respondents felt they were not given enough information.

“They felt that they were asked to make decisions about their own safety in terms of going out, but without adequate information,” McPhee said. She said the survey was conducted just as the province began phasing out public health measures.

"They felt like they were being asked to make decisions about their risks without having the information to do so."

McPhee said the council is hoping to make some recommendations to boards and the province's minister for seniors.

"Some things that we think might be helpful in terms of moving forward and some things that we might be able to do to involve older adults in the solutions,” she said. 

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