Flora visits Yellowknife
Honourable Flora MacDonald breaks bread with Yellowknife seniors

Dane Gibson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 30/99) - Our elderly population is a demographic that is more than happy to share their acquired life experience with younger generations.

But often, society isn't listening.

To better address seniors' issues, 1999 was declared International Year of Older Persons. Canada co-ordinating committee co-chair, Flora MacDonald, was in Yellowknife this week to raise awareness and to remind everyone how important it is to listen to, and address, the concerns of the burgeoning elderly population.

"These are the people who have the experience, the knowledge and ability to continue to contribute to the country and to their communities," MacDonald said at a luncheon honouring Yellowknife seniors, Tuesday.

"It's only when you raise awareness do people and governments start to change. It's time for people to realize that 25 per cent of our population will soon be in the elderly bracket. That is something that will impact everything -- from our industries and institutions to our non-governmental organizations."

MacDonald was first elected to Parliament in 1972. She served as Secretary of State for External Affairs from 1979-80, Minister of Employment and Immigration from 1984-86, and Minister of Communications until 1988.

The energetic 73-year-old is now spending much of her time promoting seniors' rights throughout the world.

"I see the International Year of Older Persons as raising the whole visibility issue. I see it as a wake-up call to take issues that are important to seniors and society more seriously," MacDonald said.

"One of the important things we're trying to do is build bridges between younger people and the elderly, so the wisdom they have is not left behind as we move into the new millennium."

Minister Responsible for Seniors, Floyd Roland, welcomed MacDonald and the dozens of seniors who attended the luncheon.

"The seniors of the communities have been instrumental in assisting us to understand where we came from, and where we're going," Roland, who is also MLA for Inuvik, said.

"Throughout their lives, they've guided us to where we are. I often look to the elders back home for guidance. They talk about working together and respecting where we live. Those messages are going to be more important than ever in the future."

Mary Forrest called the luncheon "very nice." She came to Yellowknife as a 24-year-old and is now, at 84, an Aven Manor resident.

"Yellowknife is growing all the time and (the elderly) have a wealth of knowledge to offer. There's a lot of people around who can help guide that growth," Forrest said.

"I believe the people up here in the North are kind- hearted and that they recognize that together, seniors represent a lot of experience."