Health care challenge looms over rising number of English-speakers

Laval’s Anglophone population rose by 10,000 since 2011 census

Martin C. Barry

Some recent statistics showing growth in Laval’s English-speaking senior citizens’ community also suggest that the availability of health and social services for seniors may not be able to keep pace with an anticipated further increase in the number of seniors.

Local anglo numbers up

A report on the statistics, based on 2016 Canadian census information which is the most recent, was presented during a briefing at Cité de la Santé last week by the Chomedey-based Youth and Parents AGAPE Association.

The numbers, showing overall growth in the number of English-speaking people in Laval, were tabled as Agape is opening a new Wellness Center for English-speaking seniors in Laval this week.

“The point today of releasing these statistics was first of all to tell the Laval community about English-speaking seniors,” said Joanne Pocock, a research consultant who worked on compiling the information.

Different from the majority

“They are a group that has a profile that’s a little different from the majority group, and therefore their needs and demands, how to support them, will vary from the typical.”

Referring to some of the statistical findings that suggested a significant number of Laval’s English-speaking retirees are living on low incomes, Pocock said, “That fair portion of seniors that’s living on less than $20,000 annually speaks loudly when it comes to health and challenges for that group.”

Apart from the question of low income, Pocock also noted the growth in the number of English-speaking seniors that is forecast in the near future.

More English-speaking seniors

“Laval is a growing community which stands out, and the English-speaking community is growing which stands out in the province, because there are a number of English-speaking communities in decline in terms of numbers.”

The numbers tend to suggest that preparations might be needed to anticipate the rising need for English-speaking senior citizens’ services in Laval for this growing demographic segment. “That growing seniors group – that is a phenomenon that we don’t see elsewhere around the province,” said Pocock.

Going against the trend

According to the statistics, nearly 91,000 of Laval’s 410,850 residents are English-speaking individuals. Among the English-speaking, nearly 20,000 are seniors aged 55 years and over, while more than 9,800 are English-speaking seniors aged 65 or older.

“By comparison you’re a very substantial group here,” Pocock told the gathering, noting that in some other regions of Quebec, English-speakers number as few as 900 individuals amidst the general population.

Agape executive-director Kevin McLeod pointed out that the 2016 census recorded an increase of 10,000 English-speaking individuals in Laval since the 2011 census. “Laval is one of our growing English-speaking communities, because that’s not taking place all around the province,” Pocock added.

The coming ‘tsunami,’ says Pocock

She sees the larger number of individuals in Laval in the 55+ English-speaking seniors group as one of the main reasons demand for English-speaking services here is likely to increase. “You have the tsunami coming, as they say, where that is going to be a growing group,” she said.

Pocock suggested that as the English-speaking population of Laval ages, some might find they have more difficulty coping in instances where the availability of health care services isn’t adequately provided in English.

“Being a senior in itself can represent new challenges,” she said. “If you’re an English-speaking senior but you have been pretty much bilingual all your life, you may find in your older years that you don’t use your French language, your second language, as comfortably.

A vulnerable minority

“There is research that supports the idea that with aging, with acute stress, with illness, we lose our competence in our second language. We want to revert to our other tongue or to the tongue we’re most comfortable in.” And there could be other things for English-speakers, she continued.

“The fact you’re a minority, that there’s fewer of you, means that by and large, and it makes sense, the institutions that you are accessing are probably organized around the majority. The institution sees the majority at their door very often and they organize their services to respond to the demand. So just by virtue of being a minority it makes you a little more vulnerable.”