Home Social Trends Age & Generations BC Seniors advocate sets directions about aging

BC Seniors advocate sets directions about aging

Cost of living impacts and insufficient home care services | 5 recommendations

aging in place, aging matters
"Ageing Matter - What we heard from BC Seniors" - report issued June 5, 2024 by the BC Seniors Advocate.

Wednesday June 5, 2024 | VICTORIA, BC [Last update 1:45 pm]

by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends

BC Seniors Advocate Dan Levitt wants to ensure that BC seniors can age with dignity. This is Seniors Week in BC.

Today he released a report called Ageing Matters – What we heard from BC Seniors. Even before taking over the reins of the Office of the BC Seniors Advocate in April, Levitt said back in January that ‘embracing aging‘ is the necessary approach for government and society.

dan levitt, bc seniors advocate
BC Seniors Advocate Dan Levitt, March 2024 [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

From his interviews during travels around the province in the past month or so, Levitt notes that support services are being held up by the volunteers who are mostly seniors supporting other seniors. He had met with seniors and service providers.

He concludes that not all seniors are thriving, whether urban or rural.

Premier’s input:

During a media session later in the day, Premier David Eby said: “We will work closely with the seniors advocate to make sure we’re taking care of seniors in this province.”

david eby, premier
Premier David Eby, June 5, 2024. [BC Govt livestream]

Eby warned that a change in government would lead to cuts in programs that support seniors.

Eby noted that the BC NDP eliminated Pharmacare deductibles. Many seniors benefit by the reduced costs for medication, in addition to there being no Medical Services Plan (MSP) fees for anyone in BC as enacted by the current NDP government.

Ageing Matters report:

The Ageing Matters report (June 5, 2024) based on what Levitt heard on his tour around BC in April is available online.

aging in place, aging matters
“Ageing Matter – What we heard from BC Seniors” – report issued June 5, 2024 by the BC Seniors Advocate.

The ‘Ageing Matters’ report reaffirms BC seniors on fixed incomes are disproportionately impacted by the high cost of living and unable to absorb increased costs for housing, food, medical equipment, mobility aids and other necessities for healthy ageing.

Five recommendations:

Today’s report includes five recommendations:

  • Redesign the SAFER program (so that seniors pay 30% or less of their income on rent).
  • Increase the amount of BC Seniors Supplement (currently capped at $99.30 per month)
  • Eliminate the daily rate charge for home support (will reduce premature transition to long-term care).
  • Provide the shingles vaccine at no cost to BC seniors.
  • Develop and implement a cross-ministry seniors services strategy and action plan (led by Health Ministry, but also Housing)

The report boldly states: “We all share a responsibility in shaping how seniors live and age in BC.”

district of metchosin

Cross-ministry approach to looming issue:

“We all share a responsibility in shaping how seniors live and age in BC,” says Levitt.

A cross-ministry approach is needed, as evidenced in today’s report. That would very likely include Finance, Housing, Health Care and Citizens’ Services.

mitzi dean, mla, constituency, ad

In BC, by 2036 (just 12 more years) one in four people in BC will be age 65-plus. Levitt urges attention and preparation for this.

Home support is inadequate:

Seniors told Levitt that they need home support but cannot afford it. Those who receive it find the service inconsistent and unreliable.

Most seniors don’t know where to go for support when they need it or even where to start. Supports and programs for seniors are fragmented and uncoordinated, spread across several government ministries, health authorities and service providers.

Today Levitt said he expects to see the cost of home care support covered in the next provincial budget (in 2025). Pushing for that in today’s report is “a reminder” to government, he told media today. Home care costs are covered in Ontario and Alberta. BC needs to make this a priority, says Levitt.

monk office commercial accounts

Long-term care waits are lengthy:

There are lengthy wait times to access long-term care, adult children experience caregiver burnout, and older couples live apart and struggle to pay for both long-term care and maintaining their home.

Cost of living impacts:

The overwhelming issue is affordability. Seniors are simply unable to absorb increased costs for rent, groceries, transportation, property taxes, home support, personal care and other services.

Seniors in homeless shelters and food bank lineups now appear to be commonplace.

Inflation has hit seniors on fixed incomes hard with the cost of living being unaffordable for many.

urban food resilience initiatives society, logo

SAFER program falling short:

The most precarious group of seniors are the one in five who rent, says Levitt.

The Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER) program does not address the financial pressures by seniors who rent; the average income of SAFER recipients was just $20,844 last year.

The goal for SAFER should be that a low-income senior renter pays 30% of their income on rent. Even with recent SAFER improvements announced in April 2024, that goal will not be met. The 2024 upgrade to SAFER came four years after any previous adjustment (in 2018 apparently the assistance level was raised by 48%, according to House Minister Ravi Kahlon this spring).

Levitt says only about 1,500 to 2,000 more low-income seniors will benefit by the program changes that were announced this spring.

ravi kahlon, safer
Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon says update to the SAFER program is coming in 2024.

SAFER improvements were announced in April (including raising the rent ceiling and the income threshold), but the increases fall far short of what is needed to address the affordability crisis faced by seniors who rent.

Low-income seniors subject to ‘rentovictions’ try to find a new place in today’s rental market with great difficulty.

randall garrison

===== RELATED: