Tackling Elder Abuse

Would it surprise you to discover that approximately four percent, or 60,000, of the 1.5 million older persons living in Ontario experience some form of elder abuse (Ontario Human Rights Commission). The abuse of older adults is defined as “a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring in any relationship where there is an expectation of trust that causes harm or distress to an older person” (World Health Organization). While abuse can take many forms, including physical, sexual, emotional and neglect, the most common form of abuse is financial abuse. It is important to realize that financial abuse does not only mean theft, frauds and scams but also includes the improper use of the Continuing Power of Attorney for Property. It is disturbing to think, isn’t it, that family members, relatives, or friends, can misuse their financial power of attorney to steal money from an older adult.

 It is important for each of us to understand elder abuse and neglect, recognize the signs and know how to prevent it from continuing or ever starting in the first place. Victims of elder abuse may show signs of:

  • Depression, fear, anxiety, passivity
  • Social withdrawal
  • Unexplained physical injury
  • Lack of food, clothing and other necessities
  • Changes in hygiene and nutrition (e.g. signs of malnutrition)
  • Failure to meet financial obligations
  • Unusual banking withdrawals

 So what can you do if you suspect an older adult you know is being abused? If the situation is an emergency and you believe that the person for whom you are concerned is at risk, call “911” immediately. When you suspect an older adult is being abused but is not at risk of imminent harm, you should speak to that person. If your suspicions are confirmed, you can then provide them with information regarding their rights or individuals/agencies who can assist them. If they are not ready to address the situation, offer your personal support until they are ready to take action.

 One really important number to remember if you or someone you know is being mistreated, bullied or neglected is 1-866-299-1011 — the province wide hotline to assist abused and at-risk older adults.

 For more information on how to identify elder abuse and what you can do please see:


Hamilton has a Committee Against Abuse of Older Persons (CAAOP), part of the Hamilton Council of Aging. CAAOP is interested in advocacy, education and linking individuals to services that assist older adults at risk of being abused.  Our mandate is to strengthen the community’s ability to prevent, recognize and respond to the abuse of older persons. For more information please go to http://coahamilton.ca/resources/prevention-of-elder-abuse/

Please remember the abuse of older adults is never right, acceptable or excusable.

 Glenys Currie is a member of the Board of Directors of the Hamilton Council on Aging, and Chair of CAAOP.

Home Care in an Age-Friendly City

Building an age-friendly Hamilton requires that older people receive the support and care they need to live and thrive in their communities. Strong home care services are therefore a key pillar of age-friendly cities. What makes for good home care services, and what do older people need and want from home care?

Home care services range from help with cooking and cleaning, to personal care such as bathing, to nursing care and occupational and physical therapy. Increasingly, physicians are becoming a part of the home care system by visiting those who may find it difficult to get to a doctor. Transportation services such as DARTS, meal delivery services like Meal on Wheels, and friendly visiting programs also play an important role in supporting older people in their homes. To access publicly funded home care, provided through Community Care Access Centres (CCACs), those in need of care must undergo an assessment. Those with the financial means may also choose to pay privately for home care.

 As a graduate student researcher in the Department of Sociology at McMaster University, I have conducted interviews with older people using home care to gain a better understanding of their experiences and expectations of home care services. The participants in my study, living in Hamilton and Toronto, shared important insights on the things they value in home care and on the ways we might improve these services to enable older people to live happily and safely in their own homes for as long as they wish. In this blog entry, I will share some of these findings with you.

Although participants in my study received home care for help with a variety of activities, they often emphasized that it was important to continue caring for themselves as much as possible. Participants expressed a desire for home services that supported their capacity to take care of themselves in ways that were personally meaningful and that contributed to their well-being. For example, some participants who had trouble walking wanted home care workers to accompany them on short walks. Such support enabled them to stay active without worrying about their safety if they were to fall while walking alone. Providing home care services that meet older people’s desire to care for themselves can support their long-term well-being.

In many cases, participants who were receiving home care also received support from family members and friends. Participants often expressed that their family and friends played an important role in caring for them and in enabling them to live in their own homes. Yet, participants were often reluctant to ask their families and friends for more help, and expressed feelings of guilt about “burdening” family, especially adult children. Participants often voiced a need for more public home care services so that they would not have to turn to family in times of need. There were also some participants who had very few family members or friends available to help, for diverse reasons. Some of these participants had migrated to Canada and left family behind, while others had cut ties with family due to experiences of abuse and conflict. Providing sufficient home care for all—including those with very little support from family and friends—is necessary to build an inclusive age-friendly city.

Finally, participants expressed a desire for greater control and flexibility in accessing home care. In some cases, participants complained that the home care they received disrupted their schedules when care providers visited at inconvenient times. For example, having to wait for help with a shower sometimes meant that participants missed social activities and appointments. In other cases, participants felt that they did not receive help where it was most needed. For example, some participants expressed a need for help with cleaning, rather than bathing, but were only allotted home care for bathing. Providing flexible services, which respond to individual needs and desires, is essential to enabling people to live well and to participate in their communities.

Rachel Barken is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Sociology at McMaster University, and a student member of the Gilbrea Centre for Studies in Aging. You can follow her on Twitter @RachelBarken.


Learning by working with HCoA

I have been fortunate to work for the Hamilton Council on Aging for the past four years. Before joining HCoA, I had some familiarity with the organization as the Board of Directors would conduct their meetings at my previous place of employment. At the time, I was not as aware of what HCoA actually did or of the reputations of the very accomplished group of academics and professionals who would gather in our meeting room every month. I never would have predicted that just a few short years later, I would have the privilege to work with and learn from such a talented—and modest—group of individuals, working with them towards the fundamental goal of improving “aging experiences in Hamilton.”  

Through my time at HCoA, I have played the role of a secretary, public speaker, event planner, writer, student, and webmaster, among others, in the various projects I have helped coordinate and administer. While I am obviously speaking very broadly—and those who know me will laugh at the thought of my doing all of these things and more—I have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to work in areas far outside my original skill-set and comfort zone. As a result, I have felt challenged to continue learning, develop new skills and become more informed and knowledgeable on a day by day basis.

One of the most interesting projects I’ve been part of is one of HCoA’s more recent undertakings: “Let’s Take a Walk.” Working with a highly expert team led by Margaret Denton, and including McMaster University Rehabilitation Sciences, the City of Hamilton and local trails associations, Let’s Take a Walk has been quite the undertaking. The project involves seniors’ engagement, accessibility audits, educational seminars, and the development of an age-friendly guide to walking trails in Hamilton. As the girl who is famously known for getting lost in her own backyard, this project has taught me about things like GIS data and satellite images for mapping. I have also been tasked with multiple public speaking engagements, something that I am slowly getting more comfortable with. Most importantly, though, my experiences on projects such as this has made me more knowledgeable about “age-friendly communities” and how small changes to things like the size of font on signs or even the dimensions on a washroom stall can make such a huge difference for people living in the community.

Despite HCoA’s small staff complement, I am surrounded by colleagues in a shared endeavour.. The Council is truly a collaborative organization. Every project that I have been privileged to work on has a huge team of hardworking and dedicated individuals behind it, represented by members of the community and enhanced by the wealth of knowledge and expertise that older adults so freely and  generously share on an ongoing basis.

The people that HCoA serves are the same ones who service the organization. As a “working board” our Board of Directors is very much part of our staff team. In addition, the countless volunteers that contribute time and energy to HCoA’s projects are primarily older adults. The wealth and knowledge gained by working with those who have lived and learned so much has to be one of the most enlightening and enriching experiences anyone could have.

HCoA has taught me many things, but most importantly, through the examples that are set before me, I have learned to trust in the abilities of others, and to appreciate the value and uniqueness of every persons’ experience. I have always cherished the older people in my life and continue to do so as I meet countless strong, warm, interesting and outstanding older adults through HCoA.

So thank you to HCoA and all the older adults in my life for remaining open to me and for reminding me to think without prejudice, work hard, and act with confidence.

Shelagh Kiely is Project Coordinator for the Hamilton Council on Aging

A message from HCoA’s new President

As I enter my term as President of the Board of Directors of the Hamilton Council on Aging (HCoA) I am excited about the Council’s many accomplishments and where the Council is headed as an organization. In just short eight years since it was established, the Council has made tremendous progress as it strives to make a difference in the lives of older adults and contributes to their well-being.

2014 has been a significant year for the Council as it continues its partnership with the City of Hamilton, and community partners to develop a Plan for an Age Friendly Hamilton and we are extremely pleased to report that on September 24, 2014, Hamilton City Council approved the recommendations contained in the plan, bringing to fruition much of what the Council has work on for the past several years, work that was begun by Dr. Margaret Denton, Dr. Carolyn Rosenthal, and the Council’s founding Board of Directors.

A Plan for an Age Friendly Hamilton is significant because it reflects “the voices” – ideas, perceptions, and needs of older adults and key stakeholders of greater Hamilton. It identifies strengths, opportunities and recommendations to move Hamilton further along to become an age-friendly city.

Through all of its work, the Council is challenged to maintain focus on its four strategic priorities that guide its work – prevention of abuse of older persons; increasing access to programs and support services for older adults from diverse communities; tackling poverty among seniors; and creating an age-friendly city, while remaining financially sound. The Council will continue to identify funding opportunities, partnerships and collaborations that will allow it to contribute to the well-being of older adults.

The Council endeavours to remain true to its mission and vision by engaging older adults in all aspects of its work and reaching out to those that are hardest to reach.

The Council, as a small not-for-profit organization, has a “working” Board of Directors who devote countless hours to its work. I feel encouraged to be working alongside these many talented, skilled, committed and dedicated individuals towards a common goal.

I look forward to continuing to work with fellow Board members, partners, and volunteers as the Council continues its journey to an Age Friendly City for all ages.

With the aging of the Canadian population, the Council must also reach out to everyone in our community who has an interest in the wellbeing of seniors. Please send us your thoughts about the challenges and opportunities ahead to make Hamilton an age-friendly place to live.

Monica Quinlan

President, HCoA Board of Directors

The Bottom Line of Aging

When I took on a marketing internship with the Hamilton Council on Aging two years ago, “age-friendly” was the buzz phrase du jour. I’d just completed Sheridan College’s Corporate Communications program, and understood very well that as our population aged, our strategies and tactics around communicating with older audiences needed to be altered appropriately, too. Businesses of all kinds, from travel agencies to yogurt, were attempting to make aging an attractive, healthy, fun experience, and hoping no doubt to monetize it as well. While the marketing world often follows the money, these businesses were catching on to the fact that if their services didn’t at least appear to be age-friendly, they weren’t going to profit from this significant demographic shift.

Many industries that had ignored seniors for so long were suddenly trying to appeal to older age groups, and a sort of “age-washing” of ad campaigns followed, as business owners signed on in droves for seminars meant to help make their products and services age-friendly.

The most effective marketing, of course, is that which works in good faith to build respectful relationships with two-way communication at the core. In other words, it’s about more than just adding a widget to a website that bumps up the text size, or featuring a good looking grey-haired woman on a granola bar box. Great marketing and communications needed to be about valuing and respecting experiences of aging. And, as I learned, valuing and respecting experiences of aging is of benefit to all of us. And that just makes good business sense.

As organizations such as the Hamilton Council on Aging work to educate, advocate, and improve experiences of aging, often part of that work includes envisioning and working toward more age-friendly services, including businesses that understand how to relate to the changing needs of their markets. Many resources on HCoA’s website point to strategies for serving seniors better – things like allocating adequate staff time and care with senior clients, and ensuring that the physical layout of a store allows for shoppers with reduced mobility to access it with ease. Also of importance is training the marketing world to not revert to stereotypes by reinforcing incorrect perceptions of aging in communications efforts. It makes good business sense because it’s based simply on respect. And businesses that take care to improve services for an aging population also help improve experiences for pregnant women and those with young children, people with limited hearing or sight, or those experiencing reduced mobility due to injury. In other words, all of us.

People in Canada are living longer, enjoying better health later in life, and thanks in part to organizations such as Hamilton Council on Aging, they are able to participate more fully and meaningfully in society. That means they’re savvier and smarter, too, when it comes to using the Internet, viewing advertisements, and making decisions about how they spend money. If marketing sticks to the model of engaging with its audience and listening carefully, it’s just a matter of time before it catches up.


Jenny Gladish works in communications for CoBALT Connects, a non-profit arts organization. She got her start in communications through an internship with the Hamilton Council on Aging, and is now a member of its communications subcommittee.

Building a Plan to Build a More Age-Friendly Hamilton

For the past year the Hamilton Council on Aging has been working in partnership with the City of Hamilton, Seniors Advisory Committee to Council and other community partners to develop a plan that would Build A More Age-Friendly Hamilton.

 The plan is almost completed.

 The draft plan will be presented to the Emergency and Community Services Committee of City Council on September 22 and to City Council on September 24, at the last meeting before Council adjourns for the October 27 Municipal Election.

 In many ways this has been a dream project. It has brought together many wonderful people, highly committed to creating a more inclusive, equitable and age-friendly city. They have stepped up, contributed and collaborated in the development of the ideas. The City has been an excellent partner, and there are countless ways in which the City is already moving towards this goal. City staff has been open and receptive to the ideas brought presented to them and have contributed their own.

 This is not to say that with the approval of the plan that life will improve overnight. The biggest constraint is resources. Hamilton is not flush with funds and the provincial and federal governments are not easing the infrastructure deficit – one of the city’s biggest fiscal challenge- in any substantive way. There is some resistance to investments in public transit, investments that would benefit older adults who no longer can or want to drive. Some recommendations depend on the provincial and federal governments to take action, to work differently or invest in Hamilton.

 However there are a number of small changes coming that may make a big difference to many people. Watch for them.

 We have all come to the conclusion that one of the most important things we can do to improve the aging experience is to communicate more effectively. This means two main things. First, making sure people know where to find information and that it is simple to remember: a “trusted source” that is the gateway to all that we need to know. Fortunately that source is in place, although not well publicized. Community Information Hamilton provides information on all manner of things through their website (informationhamilton.ca) or when you call them at 905-528-0104 or 211. Improving awareness of this information source will be an important recommendation made in the plan.

 The second aspect of communication is about personal connection. Do you know that Hamilton Public Libraries not only have free books, DVDs etc. for our use, but are also a great source of information? If you want to find out what is available for you in Hamilton, ask your local librarian. While there are many other sources, including community information organizations, only the libraries blanket the city.

 The libraries also provide space and opportunities for you to connect with each other – and it is free. For example, Sherwood Library is hosting a conversation “Let’s talk about successful aging” this August (check their summer calendar). This is a terrific initiative and only one of many hosted by the libraries. Their community outreach efforts serve as an example of how Hamilton is already on its way to becoming more age-friendly.

 The recommendations in the report focus on all aspects of building an age-friendly Hamilton, from housing to transit to recreation and social inclusion. It will be a living document, which means it will continue to be updated and taken out to the community. This is not a project for the city government alone, it is for all of us to create together.

 Please check in with the Hamilton Council on Aging website to learn when you will have an opportunity to see this plan, or follow us on Facebook or twitter (@AFH_Hub) to keep updated.


Dr. Denise O’Connor is a public policy analyst with an expertise in age-friendly cities, health systems and community engagement. She has been working as a consultant with the Hamilton Council on Aging to help make Hamilton more age-friendly.








What is Hamilton Third Age Learning?

Hamilton Third Age Learning

  • What is a hash tag?
  • Is there a difference in male and female brains?
  • Need to keep up with technology?
  • What happened in the financial crisis of 2008?
  • Why does Canada have home grown terrorists?
  • What is the future of healthcare?
  • What is the latest research on stem cells?


These are a few of the discussions in the new HTAL (Hamilton Third Age Learning) program.


The Third Age Learning Movement was established in France in 1973. It spread rapidly throughout Europe and in the UK and first arrived in Canada in Sherbrook, PQ in 1975.

 Worldwide there are now many organizations offering learning opportunities for older, often retired people (third age). Venues include universities, community organizations and independent groups.

 According to Catalyst, The Canadian Network for ThirdAge Learning, there are now over 50 third age learning groups of various kinds in Canada, coast to coast.

 Well-established, successful programs have been established in Guelph and Kitchener for over 25 years and most recently Burlington launched their program two years ago.

New to Hamilton:

The good news is that Third Age Learning has begun in Hamilton.

With the second largest number of older adults in the Province and a city committed to becoming an Age Friendly City the time is right for this exciting movement to take hold in Hamilton. 


Hamilton Third Age Program (HTAL) was launched in 2013 with a lecture series for retired and semi- retired persons who share an interest in lifelong learning and understanding contemporary issues.

Our theme: “How do we begin to understand the 21st century?” Our world is a very complex and confusing place where change is happening at an ever-faster pace. The highly qualified speakers cover a range of topics providing insights into this century’s problems and possibilities.

The program is intellectually stimulating and engaging. As well, it provides an opportunity for participants to socialize.


The lecture series is offered at the McMaster Innovation Park on 175 Longwood Avenue. This is a spacious and bright location which highlights works of local artists.


The 6 lecture series is offered in the spring and fall on Friday mornings, 10am to noon.


45 minute lecture, coffee break followed by a lively question and answer period.


Upcoming: fall 2014:

  • Jackie Maxwell Artistic director of the Shaw festival: the important role of theater in contemporary life.
  • Dr. Gordon McBean director of the Western University center for environment and sustainability: Global climate change and how Canadians can address the issue.
  • Dr. Laurel Trainer Professor of Psychology at Mcmaster: children learn through exposure to music and how it shapes behavior.
  • Dr. Ron Dielbert of the University of Toronto: the implications of the Snowden revelations.
  • David Mulroney former Canadian ambassador to china: Chinas’ changing character and the challenges it poses for Canada.
  • Francesca Grosso of Grosso McCarthy Toronto: tips and advice on navigating Ontario’s changing health care system.



The price of the 6-lecture package is $50.00 (includes free parking) or if you prefer to come to a lecture of your choice, there are tickets (depending on available seating) at the door for $10.00


How to register:

Registration has currently sold out for the fall 2014 series. Registration and information for 2015 spring lectures:

go to www.htal.ca


Sharron Johnson is a member of the Board of Directors for Hamilton Third Age Learning.