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Aging Warning Getting Out
- Holmesetorial

Senior citizen with doctorThe ‘Globe and Mail's’ Jeffery Simpson spoke recently to a lunch gathering in Collingwood, ON, sponsored by the Collingwood General & Marine Hospital Foundation.

The foundation holds a keynote session annually on the healthcare system and two topical medical condition seminars semi-annually. The purpose is to raise the IQ of the community health system and medical conditions. Regretfully, the target audience, the general local populace, doesn't attend. Instead, the events are heavily attended by the ever growing GTA transplants aged from the upper 50s into the 70s.

I was at an out-of-town meeting, but my wife, a member of the foundation's educational committee, did attend and bought a copy of his book ‘Chronic Condition, with a new Epilogue.’ Why a new epilogue to a book published in 2012? Was there a change of perspective that occurred within the first year after release? The ‘new’ epilogue was released in 2013.

Sparked Annoyance

Whatever Simpson said at the lunch sparked annoyance from the president of the Ontario Nurses' Association as set out in a letter to the editor of the local weekly newspaper. So, I read the book to see what was said. For those of you who have read it, you were treated to a historical journey leading up to today's ‘system.’ Along the way, he brought out old names that once ran off our tongue – names like Lalonde, Marsh, MacEachern, Begin, Fyke – that many of us had forgotten. Unlike his editorials in the newspaper, I found repetition of some themes as if he was getting lost and had to return to his home platform. And he was not kind to the nurses in the book and no doubt dwelled on this in his speech causing the ONA president's rebuttal.

What I began to sense was that he didn't believe that aging baby boomers were going to stretch the economic resources available to provincial health ministers. Such a posture raised my eyebrows and I concentrated on that angle as I finished the book. About halfway, at page 197, I found the first evidence to me of self-doubt when he talked about Dr. Cy Frank's research:

“Chronic diseases of the bone and joint such as arthritis cost Canadians $17 billion a year, Dr. Frank estimates. More than six million Canadians will be afflicted with these diseases by 2024. Arthritis will afflict the largest number, perhaps five million. Dr. Frank, a widely admired figure in Alberta medical circles, calls what's coming the ‘burning platform,’ since many of these diseases disproportionately afflict the elderly.”

By June 11, 2014, his editorial page column was headed with: ‘Our hospitals are not ready for the grey tsunami.’ In that article, he appeared to recognize that the aging baby boomers will stress the healthcare system. With the growth in headcount, currently 14 per cent rising to 26 or 27 per cent by 2029, the impact is not just about healthcare. With an aging society comes slower growth because fewer people will be working and earning income, and more people will need governments programs.

Rise Exponentially

I would suggest Simpson's research for the book, and the post-release discussions he no doubt has been engaged in, have allowed his health system IQ to rise exponentially to the realization of what many of you has known for a long time. While he was comfortable talking about baby boomers, he avoided the word demographics. Why? Was it because it could be described as a synonym for an aging population in the vein of Dr. David Foot of ‘Boom, Bust, Echo’ fame?

Simpson has a large following and writes on a very wide range of topics which are usually well thought out. Finally, he appears to be ‘getting it’ on healthcare and we should be glad, but we need more ‘faces’ to get the message out.

Will you accept the challenge to find them and broaden the message?

Fred Holmes is a self-employed employee benefits consultant and chronic arthritis  patient (fred.holmes@sympatico.ca).

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