Are we serving our seniors well?

One of the saddest aspects of my job involves the issue of seniors’ care and hearing the heart-wrenching stories families bring to my office that highlight the inadequacy of our current system and approach to meeting the growing needs of seniors.

One of the saddest aspects of my job involves the issue of seniors’ care and hearing the heart-wrenching stories families bring to my office that highlight the inadequacy of our current system and approach to meeting the growing needs of seniors.

In one meeting it dawned on me that I was sitting with a group of people in their 60s, many entering retirement, who found themselves struggling to meet the needs of their parents who were in their 80s and 90s (some were also still supporting their adult children, but that is a whole other issue). These good people were not only dealing with the inadequacies of the system to address their parents’ needs, they also knew it wouldn’t be long until they too would need “the system” to support them. In another meeting, an 85-year-old woman told me that she and her bed-ridden 91-year-old husband had lived beyond their ability to support themselves in their home and dreaded having to go into care, but their family could not take care of them. They both ended up in a regional care facility and died a short time later.

“Seniors” is the label we give to the age group that built our society.

Society, in turn, owes them the best care possible in their final years. From home support to residential care, we owe these citizens the supports they need to live out their last years with the dignity and respect they deserve. Unfortunately, as with so many other areas of concern these days, seniors’ care has become an “issue” and a “cost” to society that is quickly becoming “unmanageable.” The Olympics, a roof over BC Place, a new Mega-Casino, and a multi-billion dollar bridge in Vancouver (which will allow people to keep driving their single-occupancy vehicles), are all “economic stimulus,” but seniors’ care is a cost that we’re “struggling” to fund at an appropriate level.

There’s something wrong with the thinking that underpins this skewed sense of priorities. I’m very curious to see what the new premier-designate has to say about seniors’ care when she reveals her “families first” agenda next week. After all, our seniors are the foundation of healthy families and healthy communities.

Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.