Transportation, home care services and rental affordability for seniors are concerns province-wide, said Isobel Mackenzie, B.C. Seniors’ Advocate. (Black Press file)

Seniors in B.C. a cause for celebration

As we come to the close of Seniors Week now is a good time to reflect on what it means to be a senior in B.C.

As we come to the close of Seniors Week now is a good time to reflect on what it means to be a senior in B.C.

Contrary to the apocalyptic predictions of a “silver tsunami” sweeping our province, country and planet, seniors today and into the future are very much in the minority. Currently, 82 per cent of British Columbians are under the age of 65 and at the height of our shifting demographics (2031), three out of four of our citizens will still not be claiming old age pension or free ferry fares.

Yet, despite the reality of the numbers, we persist in painting seniors as a “problem to be solved” or a “cost curve to be bent.”

How must it feel to be labeled as a “burden” to society, and how frustrating would it be to live a very different experience than what is portrayed in popular culture as the “norm” for someone described as a senior?

Far from being a burden, when we look at the numbers, seniors are contributing to society by working, volunteering and paying for a number of their health care services.

The number of people working beyond the age of 65 is growing rapidly. In fact, the fastest growing number is for those age 70-plus, who are still engaged in the paid labour force. Seniors contribute the highest number of volunteer hours per person of any age cohort.

As an example, each year in this province, seniors raise over $10 million through Hospital Auxiliaries that fund equipment in hospitals for people of all ages to benefit from. Less than five per cent of seniors and only 15 per cent of those aged 85 and older use publicly-subsidized long term care and, even then, we take 80 per cent of their net income to offset the cost. Need help at home.

READ MORE: BC seniors’ poverty rate highest in Canada: report

Well, if you live in B.C. and earn over $24,000 a year expect to pay for a good deal of this “health” care yourself. Even our emergency departments, which are often painted as being over-run by seniors, are still dominated by patients under 65. Only six per cent of emergency department visits are by people aged 85 and older. At nearly every turn, the reality of the numbers contradicts the pop culture narrative of the impacts of seniors in our society. Perhaps nowhere is this more relevant than when we examine the issue of dementia.

On any given day in B.C., 20 per cent of those aged 85 and older will have a diagnosis of dementia. Let’s look at this another way: 80 per cent or eight out of 10 people aged 85 and older do not have a diagnosis of dementia.

Of course the absolute number of people with dementia will increase as the total population increases, but there is no evidence to suggest that the likelihood of developing dementia is increasing (in fact some evidence points to the reverse, but it’s early days, so let’s not get too excited). Yet, think about how quick we are to label certain behaviours in an 80 year old as “this might be the beginning of…” For the record, 25 year olds can forget where they parked their car, lose their wallets, and stumble at finding the right word and no one rushes them into the doctor’s office to see if they can spell world backwards or know what the date is.

So, as we wrap up Seniors Week, let’s take a moment not to dwell upon needs (and there definitely are some, but plenty of time for that later); let’s instead celebrate a group of people who bring wisdom, experience and lifetimes spent contributing to our province’s coffers and who, for the most part continue to live independent, self-sufficient lives, knowing who they are and what they want and always at the ready to lend a helping hand when needed.

Isobel Mackenzie is the Seniors Advocate for the Province of BC.

Just Posted

Hough Memorial Cancer Society raises over $84,000 in 2018

The Hough Memorial Cancer Society thanks our community for their generous donations of 2018.

WLSA Outdoor Adventure Program back for second season

“There are roads all over the place we can explore with some really nice scenery.”

Lakecity to host Provincial Mine Rescue and First Aid Competition June 1

Williams Lake will be hosting the 2019 Provincial Mine Rescue and First Aid Competition

WEB POLL: Are the penalties for human-caused wildfires strict enough?

The BC Wildfire Service estimates, on average, 40 per cent of wildfires in B.C. are person-caused.

FOREST INK: BC and Canadian pulp industry doing better

The recent announcement of the Tolko lumber mill closure in Quesnel this… Continue reading

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

Growing wildfire prompts evacuation of High Level, Alta.

Chuckegg Creek fire has been burning for several day, but grew substantially Sunday

Top women’s hockey player Natalie Spooner coming to B.C.

Natalie Spooner special guest at annual Grindstone charity weekend in Kelowna

Take-home drug testing kits latest pilot to help curb B.C.’s overdose crisis

Researchers look to see if fentanyl testing could be a useful tool for those who use drugs alone

Facebook takes down anti-vaxxer page that used image of late Canadian girl

Facebook said that the social media company has disabled the anti-vaccination page

Search crews rescue kids, 6 and 7, stranded overnight on Coquitlam mountain

Father and two youngsters fall down a steep, treacherous cliff while hiking Burke Mountain

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

Rescue crews suspend search for Okanagan kayaker missing for three days

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

Most Read