B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie says housing remains the number one issue for seniors in this province, just ahead of health care.
Mackenzie, who was in Kelowna today to speak with seniors, will issue a report on seniors’ housing early next month. She said housing concerns differ depending on location.
In urban areas, she said, the main concern is affordability. But in rural areas and smaller communities, the issue is availability.
Mackenzie said she hopes her upcoming report will shed light on both the problems and provide some possible solutions, as it will contain a number of recommendations for government to help deal with the issue.
For Mackenzie, who was appointed as the province’s first seniors advocate in 2014, the Kelowna visit was her second. She came here shortly after being appointed last year to explain her role and the role of her new office to a small group of seniors at a local seniors housing facility.
This time, her audience was much larger and she said while housing and health care were two of the big issues for her office, there are plenty of others as well.
Personal support, transportation, income support, care giver support, physical therapy, agism and a host of other issues all fall under the seniors advocate’s watchful eye. And while some things are being done right in B.C. when it comes to how seniors are being dealt with, there are other areas of greater concern.
One example she gave was physical therapy in residential care homes. In that area, MacKenzie said she feels B.C. is “woefully” under-performing .
“Other provinces are doing much better,” she said.
Another area of concern for her is educating seniors about the programs that are available to them— programs such as subsidies for medical services premiums based on income and and subsidies for rent, also based on income.
With 52,000 seniors in B.C. having an income of $16,400 per year or less, she said programs like the MSP and rent subsidies can make a huge difference for some seniors.
But one issue she said continues to trouble her is agism, and it’s not just an issue among younger people when it comes to dealing with seniors.
“We are all guilty, even other seniors,” said Mackenzie.
While often delivered with the best intentions, she said concerns that seniors need to change their living arrangements are often based more on what younger caregivers feel is best for the senior, not necessarily what the individual senior feels might be best for him or her.
“Age is just a number,” said Mackenzie. “You can’t run the marathon as quickly at 85 as you could at 26, but you can still run it.”
She said if a senior is competent and coping, then they are, in her estimation, competent.
As part of her stop in the Central Okanagan, Mackenzie also planned to meet with seniors in West Kelowna, Lake Country and Peachland.