Dolly Madsen

Dolly Madsen

Smart 55: Seniors Advocate hosts open forum in Williams Lake

Lack of affordable housing, the cost of accommodation for medical travel and the need for a senior's dental health program.

Lack of affordable housing, the cost of accommodation for medical travel and the need for a senior’s dental health program.

Those are some of the themes Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie heard during a town hall at the Seniors’ Activity Centre Thursday.

“I sold my home because I couldn’t afford to repair it and have put my name in for social housing,” retiree Jane Carter told Mackenzie, adding cuts to the federal residential repair program has hurt people living on limited pensions like hers.

She needed help with her electrical, roof and deck to the tune of $7,000.

Another person told Mackenzie because there is no dental health coverage for many seniors, she had all of her teeth removed before she retired.

As she travels through the province many seniors are telling Mackenzie the cost of travelling for medical appointments and procedures can be prohibitive.

“It’s a big issue when you have to stay somewhere in the Lower Mainland, when you are from Williams Lake,” she agreed.

Mackenzie’s job as Seniors Advocate is to work independently to bring concerns to the government, based on research and evidence.

She doesn’t have the power to make government do anything, but she can make recommendations.

“I know we have to respect the prerogatives of seniors,” she added. “Twenty years ago people moved to the Lower Mainland, but now that’s not necessarily an option.”

George Atamanenko pointed to the future and predictions that within 30 years, people who are 65 years of age will make up 25 per cent of Canada’s population.

“Income security in retirement is the foundation for wellness and quality of life for seniors, especially for the less fortunate,” he said. “It is difficult to retire on the present pension plan. B.C. should expand on the supplemental plan as Ontario has.”

He urged Mackenzie to encourage government to stop and reverse the privatization of health care, do away with MSP premiums and reinstate PharmaCare benefits.

There also needs to be better food at hospitals he said.

“Seniors still have taste buds and deserve the best in-season, locally produced food.”

Mackenzie was appointed in March.

She also met with seniors at Glen Arbor and Seniors Village while she was in Williams Lake.

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