A survey about the financial fears of B.C. seniors reiterates some of the reasons why North Island-Powell River NDP MP Rachel Blaney has been calling for a National Seniors Strategy.
According to the ‘Tarnished golden years’ national survey, the biggest fears are running out of money before they die and not being able to pay for long-term care.
“It definitely reflects some of the specifics that we saw in the study (Advancing Inclusion and Quality of Life) that we did on seniors across Canada,” said Blaney, who serves as the Critic for Seniors. “The vulnerable population of seniors is not shrinking but slowly growing. That’s not the experience for those who are doing well, but for some, financial insecurity is growing, as are concerns of how to care for themselves in retirement.”
She says a National Seniors Strategy would offer a collaborative, multi-government approach that would consider necessary services, preventative measures and other critical actions to help seniors.
“I think it would be good to have a minister in place with an actual department,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be there forever, but as we deal with this increasing, aging population, we need to have a good strategy around how we’re going to address those issues. Right now, the seniors’ component is a challenge because it’s a huge ministry.”
Kris Anderson, program co-ordinator of Comox Valley Better at Home, agrees that Canada needs a National Seniors Strategy. She says problems faced by seniors mirror those of low-income earners, but are amplified because of aging, which intensifies poverty, health problems and social isolation. Housing and transportation also present challenges.
“There are minimal supports for people who require assistance to stay in their own homes, even though providing supports at home is the most affordable and desirable option for people,” Anderson said. “The federal and provincial governments need to increase housing options and improve services for our eldest citizens who deserve to have the choice to live alone or with others, safely at home.”
Jennifer Pass, co-ordinator of Elders Take Action, says the Valley needs some reasonably priced housing that includes meals. She feels the federal government should help provincial governments support the construction of small homes for eight to 10 residents that don’t provide care, but do provide common areas and meals.
“Those needing care need to be moved to a care facility in a timely fashion,” Pass said. “These homes should have reasonable rent and provide subsidized accommodation based on income. Inflation is dramatically affecting costs for seniors, and government pensions are not keeping up with costs.”
Blaney notes that many younger women with children opt to stay home rather than pay for daycare. But by not working, they’re not paying into CPP or a private pension.
“There’s this cycle in place where we’ve already seen the outcome, and now we’re seeing it happen again because of the high cost of daycare. What does that mean when they’re in their 80s? It’s this system that we really need to be looking at.”
Many older women, she added, do not qualify for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). Some resort to couch surfing, or end up homeless.
“When you look at all the statistics, single women — seniors — are by far the poorest,” Blaney said. “These are important things I think a ministry needs to look at.”
It’s been suggested that the National Seniors Council address the issue, but Blaney says the council has no ability to influence regulations or to create legislation.
“Some of these things we’re seeing need power and clout. How do we work things out? It’s a growing concern.”