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Originally published: June 15, 2021

This article is part of the Investor Office series of discussions with key figures in Canada’s financial services industry whose work impacts investors. The views expressed in this article are entirely those of Laura Tamblyn Watts and are not intended to represent the views of the Investor Office or the Ontario Securities Commission.

Meet Laura

We spoke to Laura Tamblyn Watts, Canada’s expert on matters involving older adults, about the well-being of seniors and the work of CanAge during the pandemic.

Tell us about yourself…

I’m Laura Tamblyn Watts, the President and CEO of CanAge which is Canada’s national seniors’ advocacy organization. I am a lawyer by training and my work has focused on matters involving older adults ever since I was called to the bar.

What is CanAge?

CanAge is a nonpartisan, pan-Canadian not-for-profit organization which seeks to advance the rights and well-being of Canadians as we age. We launched during the pandemic, and we have established teams in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. I would describe our work as promoting age-inclusivity and helping to improve the lives of older adults through advocacy, policy and community engagement.

How does CanAge work to promote age-inclusivity in Canada?

Well, one of the big pieces of work that we undertook this year was the creation of Voices of Canada’s Seniors: A Roadmap to an Age-Inclusive Canada. It describes six compass points, identifies 40 issues and provides 135 detailed recommendations for improving Canada, as a rapidly aging country. Canada is unique among OCED countries for not having a national plan for aging and so, we think this roadmap is a very helpful way of taking concrete steps forward.

We’ve also work to promote positive change in other ways. We are raising awareness of mental capacity and dementia issues, and to make sure that we have the skills and systems in place across Canada to respond to a population that is aging and aging with cognitive impairment. We’re working hard with financial institutions on implementing the voluntary code for delivery of banking services to seniors and in the investment sector, we’re working to support proposed amendments to address financial exploitation and diminished mental capacity of older and vulnerable clients.

One of the other areas that we’re focused on is social inclusion. This means identifying and addressing ageism, as it is often a key underlying cause of social exclusion, discrimination and social vulnerability. And we know that social isolation can lead to loneliness, depression and poor health outcomes.

Does social isolation make older adults more vulnerable to financial abuse?

Yes, unfortunately. It has been a year of horrors. There was an immediate rise in frauds and scams targeting older adults. People are spending more time at home than before, and many are feeling lonelier, more isolated than ever before, and fraudsters are taking advantage of this.

We also saw that financial instability resulted in some adult children and grandchildren moving in with older adults, which has led to increased financial and other abuses in some situations.

Is financial well-being part of a larger issue?

Definitely – financial well-being is not a standalone issue. It relates to the well-being of relationships, connections with community and a sense of purpose, vibrancy and engagement. It’s not enough just to be financially secure. We need to make sure that older Canadians can live vibrant and connected lives, and that’s our vision at CanAge.

Does CanAge engage with other groups and organizations?

We do! And we are always delighted to give presentations. We’re happy to share our insights and hear the experiences of others.

We are passionate about investor issues from the individual experience as well as from people serving an aging client base. We can help to support organizations and companies on how best to address the needs of older investors.

How can people get involved with CanAge?

Great question!

We are membership-based, and it’s free for individuals, groups and organizations. There are many different opportunities for engagement. We regularly host webinars, engage in consultations with seniors and policymakers, and work across the country with community leaders, seniors’ organizations, caregivers and of course, the financial sector as well. We create tools and resources that are free for download. And, we have a monthly newsletter that highlights our advocacy work and the important activities happening across Canada, and we’re active on social media. We’re easy to get in touch with.