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BC Seniors Advocate says long-term care wait times, economic barriers still an issue in the north

Seniors in rural areas including the north continue to struggle with a lack of support and services.

That’s from BC Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie who is highlighting senior’s week in our province with a series of town halls in the Cariboo and Okanagan regions, wrapping up in Williams Lake on Friday.

Mackenzie held a similar tour in the north earlier this year, which included stops in Prince George, Burns Lake, Vanderhoof, Smithers, Terrace, and Prince Rupert.

Mackenzie told Vista Radio while we can’t fix the lack of home support services, transportation, and medical care in outlying areas, we can shore up some of the cost-related measures.

“What we can fix however, are certainly the economic barriers, the financial cost that many seniors have and are required to bare when they live in more rural parts of BC that those of us in urban areas aren’t required to.”

“There are going to be issues for the lack of a better term convivence for supports and services nearby and that’s what living in a rural and remote area, those are challenges, and we can’t fix those challenges.”

During her recent town hall sessions residents, Mackenzie said acquiring the appropriate care after returning from the doctor’s office continues to be a hot-button issue.

“It is not so much about the doctor. I heard about that a bit but it’s more about I am getting discharged from the hospital and then I am sent home and there is nobody around to help me. The health authority is telling me they can’t provide the home support I need.”

“The waiting times for long-term care are most acute in the north – the north has significantly longer waiting times for long-term care than other parts of the province. The interior has the second-longest wait times so that is a common theme I am hearing.”

“There are good things about a provincial approach to things, but I think it is challenging on the ground for some of our communities in rural and northern BC.”

Mackenzie added seniors continue to suffer from the affordability crisis in relation to higher food prices and inflation.

She mentioned elderly renters are feeling the pinch the most due to lower incomes.

While the majority of seniors are homeowners, those who rent are often the ones most in need.

“Because they don’t have a house that they can go into a home equity line of credit or a reverse mortgage or all these kinds of things and we know if you are a senior and you are a renter, you have likely been a renter all your life and you are likely poorer than most other seniors.”

“That is a big area that needs help. Homeowners who are low income and there are a lot of people who own their homes, but they are low-income and their home does not produce an income for them. I think there is a point at which the government could look at expanding things. We could look at expanding the property tax deferral program and we could say the province would pay your hydro bill and your strata fees that would help low-income seniors who are homeowners increase their income,” added Mackenzie.

Lastly, while many people focus on the lengthy long-term care wait times and the affordability issues seniors are facing, Mackenzie noted that should not overshadow the time and effort our seniors put into community events.

“We can’t forget that every day in our province there’s a million people over the age of 65 getting up and making meaningful contributions to their communities. Seniors are the most prolific volunteers in our province, and I remind people just think about what would happen in British Columbia if everyone over the age of 65 tooled down and put their feet up.”

“First of all, our health care system would come crashing down because all of the people they are providing care for wouldn’t get that care, thousands and thousands of people wouldn’t get driven to medical appointments and all of the gift shops at all of the hospitals that are run by the auxiliary would be closed for the day and no one would get their licorice sticks.”

Seniors Week in BC wraps up on Sunday (June 11th).

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