What are senior citizens looking for in Toronto’s next mayor?

Food bank use by seniors is on the rise, loneliness and isolation are also factors. Cynthia Mulligan speaks with an 80-year-old woman about how to make life better in Toronto, ahead of the mayoral election.

By Cynthia Mulligan and Meredith Bond

Senior citizens make up almost 16 per cent of Toronto’s population and as a new mayor is set to be voted in next week, CityNews finds out their perspective on how they need to make Toronto a livable city.

Maria Mikelenas-McLoughlin is almost 81 years old. She has been a widow for 12 years now and lives alone in the home she has had for about 40 years in Etobicoke

She also had a bad fall recently. She needs to walk, but uneven sidewalks and potholes are a big concern. Mikelenas-McLoughlin blames failed promises from past politicians.

“We were going to have a terrific walkable neighbourhood … well the sidewalks are uneven and if you have mobility issues like I do … it’s pretty easy to trip and fall,”

Mikelenas-McLoughlin lost her husband 12 years ago and wishes there was a community hub in her Etobicoke neighbourhood where she might be able to find some companionship.

“like ppl, I talk to everybody … but there is no one to share a Saturday night movie with.”

Affordability is also a big issue. Mikelenas-McLoughlin hasn’t gone to a restaurant in three years because she’s on a strict budget.

After living for almost 40 years in her current home, she is having difficulty maintaining it. Mikelenas-McLoughlin knows she has to sell it and move into a condo or apartment, but she’s worried she can’t afford to.

“People say there is money here … however some of the condos that are going up. I don’t know if [they are] geared to income or market value,” explained Mikelenas-McLoughlin. “So even if you make money off a house, [you are] still worried you can’t afford an apartment. That’s a big worry.”

She knows other seniors are worse off. Last year, an annual Who’s Hungry report by the Daily Break Food Bank and North York Harvest found six in ten Toronto seniors use foodbanks and almost 30 per cent said they sometimes or often don’t have enough to eat.

“Affordability is a key issue,” CEO of CanAge, Canada’s national seniors’ advocacy organization, Laura Tambyln Watts said.

“We’re seeing older people ending up homeless in way we’ve never seen before,” shared Watts. “Local folks on streets are saying people [aged] 50 plus are showing up in record numbers.”

She says Toronto needs to create more affordable housing like co-ops for seniors which could also mitigate loneliness and isolation.

Mikelenas-McLoughlin wants the new Mayor to focus on better health programs and transportation for seniors.

What are each of the top candidates promising?

Here’s what each of the top candidates for Toronto mayor are promising when it comes to seniors:

Ana Bailão

  • Provide 70,000 seniors with preventative care where they live, using hundreds of community ambassadors from local organizations that were used to increase COVID-19 vaccine rates.
  • Door-to-door health and wellness checks from health ambassadors – formerly Vaccine Ambassadors – who will also promote nearby mobile health clinics;
  • Mobile health clinics set up near seniors’ buildings in partnership between Toronto Public Health and Toronto Paramedic Services, which will provide health screens on-site including for blood sugar, blood pressure, medication, post-op follow up, and mental health;
  • Referrals to follow up health services if they are needed; and
  • $10 million for food hampers for seniors who are most in need.

Anthony Furey

  • Halt the plans to bring a modular housing unit for troubled homeless persons to the front lawn of the Willowdale Manor Seniors Complex.

Mitzie Hunter

  • Eliminate all TTC fares for seniors and all users of Wheel-Trans to help our most vulnerable and those living on fixed incomes with the rising cost of living and boost ridership, starting this September.
  • Increase Wheel-Trans service to accommodate increases in demand
  • Property tax relief – seniors will be able to defer or eliminate the tax increase entirely saving $216 for an average Toronto home.
  • The proposed Toronto Affordable Housing Corporation would build 108 full communities with community space for library and public health services and childcare, parks, on-site grocery, and retail stores. The nearly 22,700 housing units to be built in phase one will include rental and ownership units ideally suited for seniors looking to downsize or looking to live in vibrant community spaces.
  • Increase funding by $100 million for the Multi-Unit Residential Acquisition program to support the purchase, renovation and operation of rental properties by non-profit housing providers, co-ops and land trusts. Seniors on tight fixed-incomes may have difficulty with the rent from time to time.

Josh Matlow

  • Invest $6 million to extend the City’s Fair Pass discounted TTC fare program to all seniors, lowering pay-as-you-go fares to $2.10 from $2.25 per ride, and reversing recent TTC service cuts.
  • Invest $5 million to expand the vital Homemakers and Nurses Services Program to support more low-income seniors with light housekeeping, laundry, grocery shopping and meal preparation to make living at home easier and safer.
  • Introduce an Age-Friendly approach to the City’s urban planning process and expediting the planning of seniors residential and facility proposals that adequately address the needs of seniors, including the support and expansion of Toronto’s 489 naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs). Even adding more benches to outdoor spaces can provide a place to rest on daily walks or serve as a place to build community.
  • Invest $2.4 million to expand the community Paramedicine Program by 50 per cent to serve more seniors through home visits, wellness clinics and referrals, thereby reducing reliance on 911 calls and acute care, and advocating to the Province of Ontario to expand CareTO’s model of emotion-focused, culturally sensitive care to all Toronto long-term care homes.
  • Redesigning dangerous roads and improving snow clearing to keep streets and sidewalks accessible and help older adults stay healthy and connected to the community.
  • Investing $1.35 million to bring back main-lobby cafes in City-run long-term care homes and opening neighbourhood schools as community centres on evenings and weekends and all libraries on Sundays to allow for more social interaction and programming.
  • Expand work and volunteer opportunities with the City and its funded agencies for the many seniors who would rather continue to work if they had the opportunity.

Mark Saunders

  • Offer free TTC to seniors 65+ every Monday from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. to make it more affordable for seniors to get groceries, go to medical appointments, and get around the city.
  • Offer additional “Request Stop” options for seniors during off-peak hours on local transit routes, so that seniors can safely get closer to their destination.
  • Bring free WiFi to select parks throughout Toronto, so that seniors and other Torontonians can connect online to important information, social supports and vital services.
  • Open all Toronto libraries on Sunday year-round to provide more community spaces for seniors and Torontonians to gather, learn, and access technology and services.

Brad Bradford and Olivia Chow have not made any specific announcements related to seniors so far in the campaign.


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