The former Seniors Advisory Committee was dedicated to promoting the mental health and wellness of Canada’s older adults. By encouraging a ‘lifespan perspective’ across the MHCC’s work—that is, the equal consideration of the needs of youth, adults and seniors—the Committee aimed to ensure seniors’ mental health issues are addressed through effective policies and services.

The former Committee’s work focused on developing and sharing best practices, exploring barriers impeding seniors’ access to services, and making recommendations for service improvements.

Meeting the needs of Canada’s seniors
With input from seniors, families, service providers and advocacy groups, the Committee oversaw the development of the Guidelines for a Comprehensive Mental Health Services System for Older Adults in Canada. Launched in 2011, this resource supports those working in all areas of seniors’ mental health, including caregivers and service planners, in creating a more accessible and comprehensive range of services.

Through the former Committee, the MHCC partnered with the Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health and the Canadian Dementia Resource and Knowledge Exchange to distribute the Guidelines nationally. An interactive online version was also produced, featuring links to additional resources on improving seniors’ mental health services.

Overcoming stigma
Many seniors experience stigma in the form of ageism, which can affect how their needs are prioritized and addressed. Those with mental illness face even greater stigma, making it more difficult to seek treatment and support. Based on the approaches of the Opening Minds initiative, the former Committee worked on an anti-stigma tool that will be made available to healthcare professionals in 2013.

Analysis from a senior’s perspective
Reflecting the values and perspectives of older adults, the Seniors’ Mental Health Policy Lens is an analytical tool for designing and evaluating policies, programs and services affecting the mental health of older adults. Originally endorsed by the Committee as best practice in policy design and analysis, the toolkit can also be used to inform the work of other MHCC projects.