As we continue to recognize and celebrate Seniors Month this year, our Seniors Health program is pleased to share the following piece by Dr. Seda Rafilovich, Chief, Division of Geriatrics on caring for seniors in our community and through our health network. This exceptional quality care is provided for some of our most vulnerable – and vibrant – patients by staff, medical staff, volunteers and teams across SHN, in partnership with families and other providers.

By Dr. Seda Rafilovich, Chief, Division of Geriatrics, Scarborough Health Network

Here in Scarborough, where we have so many cultures and multigenerational homes that are built around relationships with elders, I believe that seniors are an integral and dynamic part of the lives of individuals and families, perhaps like in no other community. Seniors are embraced, heeded, respected, treasured, and cared for in so many rich and beautiful ways.

As a geriatrician in our community’s local hospital network, Scarborough Health Network (SHN), I have been fortunate to see and treat elderly patients from so many backgrounds and places across the globe. This greatly broadens my perspective and enriches my awareness of the multiplicity of outlooks towards life. It is heartwarming and humbling to see family members joining together to care for their elderly mom and dad, or grandparents.

Of course, caring for seniors affects us all and in a growing way, as the number of Scarborough residents over 85 years old is sharply increasing (11 per cent from 2016 to 2021) and nearly half of our seniors experience difficulties with daily living activities. Many families caring for seniors face economic hardships that make the situation more difficult, with implications for food security, housing, and more. On the flip side, social isolation is an issue for the one in four seniors who live alone, and often results in barriers to receiving much-need care, especially in cases where access to transportation is limited. These barriers are compounded by higher rates of cognitive decline among this age group.

Some of the ways of addressing these complex medical and social challenges include expanding specialized geriatric services and developing new models of care and community partnerships. Some examples of this in action are our longstanding Geriatric Assessment and Intervention Network clinics; a new SHN service that assists patients with dementia and behavioural issues to integrate back into their community following their hospital admission; and our innovative nurse-led outreach team of nurse practitioners and registered nurses who proactively visit long-term care homes in Scarborough to support resident care through assessments and treatment.

Geriatric care has truly been my lifelong passion. I am immensely proud of the work our doctors, nurses, social workers, dietitians, pharmacists, and more, are doing to ensure Scarborough seniors maintain the best quality of life possible.

For me and our team, we see caring for Scarborough’s growing population of seniors not as a burden, but a privilege and an honour.

Dr. Seda Rafilovich is the chief of geriatrics at Scarborough Health Network and a lecturer at the University of Toronto’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine.