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Seniors live long, live healthy lives, but need more support, Vancouver Islanders told

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BC’s senior advocate Isobel Mackenzie heard concerns about the cost of aging from residents at the Ladysmith Seniors Center this week

Mackenzie spoke with Ladysmith residents about an array of issues that face seniors in the province, from health care to housing. According to Mackenzie, 38 per cent of seniors in the province essentially live on less than minimum wage.

“The minimum wage went up 40 per cent in the last five years not counting the most recent increase. Pension incomes went up 14 per cent not counting the most recent increase,” she said. “When you look at the [old age security pension] and the [Canada Pension Plan]your OAS maximum, which is $8,200 a year for those under 75, the average CPP is just over $800 per month, even if the maximum is around $1,500.”

Glasses, hearing aids, mobility aids and caregiving are all necessary costs of aging that aren’t covered, she said.

The shelter aid for elderly renders a program, which provides monthly cash payments to subsidize rents for BC seniors with low to moderate incomes, “in theory is a good program, but in practice it doesn’t really work,” Mackenie said. The program was designed for 30 per cent of income to be spent on rent; however, there is an artificial cap on rental costs. It doesn’t matter what an applicant’s real rent is in Ladysmith, she said – the program will only recognize up to around $750.

The seniors advocate also spoke on ageism and bodily autonomy for seniors.

“We’re very good at helping you when you agree with the help we think you need. When you have different ideas about what you want to do and how you want to do live, we’re not actually that great,” said Mackenzie.

Whether living alone or in long-term care, mistakes and mishaps like falls and medication mix-ups will occur, she said.

There are a lot of issues to think about and the problems will cost a lot of money to fix, but Mackenzie said more government inaction will only make the problems worse. She said she believes there is an “explosion waiting to happen” with seniors becoming upset about the challenges they’re facing.

“Overwhelmingly, seniors in British Columbia live independently – the number is going up,” she said. “On the good-news front, not only are there more seniors, we’re living longer, we’re living healthier for longer and we are living on our own more.”

For those looking for more information on financial and health-care support, Mackenzie recommends calling 211 and speaking with the Office of the Seniors Advocate or contacting the Ladysmith Seniors Centre.

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