COLUMN: Preparing for the silver avalanche

"The proportion of the population aged 65-plus in the Kootenays will grow to 30 per cent by 2035."

Brad Howard

We have all been told that the portion of the Canadian population over age 65 will increase incredibly over the next 20 years. What are we doing to prepare for this “silver avalanche?”

Some facts (taken from Dr. Terri MacDonald’s presentation at the Aging in the Kootenays forum titled “Exploring Demographic-Shifts-and-Implications”):

In 2015 in rural BC, people aged 65-plus make up 21.3 per cent of the population (up from 18.2 per cent in 2011).

The proportion of the population aged 65-plus will grow to 30 per cent by 2035.

The Kootenay Lake health area is expected to have the highest senior population component in our region by 2035 at 34 per cent of the population a 58 per cent increase from 2015 to 2035.

Forty-eight per cent of RDCK households are owned by seniors. Of all seniors’ residences, 88 per cent are owned by the senior and 77 per cent are single detached.

The median income of rural seniors in rural BC in 2013 is $25,550.

Some societies and not-for-profits are focused on identifying gaps in services or “collaborating” and “coordinating” around addressing seniors’ services delivery. The volunteers at the Nelson and District Seniors Coordinating Society are delivering tangible services to individual seniors today. Since 1998, Joan Reichardt and her fellow directors have created and operated a low profile, functional organization focused on making the lives of individual seniors better every way we can.

The society is an umbrella organization managed entirely by volunteers, delivering tangible services directly to local seniors, mostly those in need. And we only exist with community support. The City of Nelson provides the Society with our facilities at 719 Vernon St. at a very nominal cost.

Our major service, the Home Help Program includes a low-income subsidy program directed at keeping seniors in their homes where they want to be. This program addresses the growing need evidenced by the facts stated above. The program and its subsidy (some clients pay as little as $5 per hour) is made possible by generous donations by local organizations: the IODE, Friends of Nelson Elders and the Nelson Lions. We help with common home duties essential to maintaining a comfortable, healthy environment part-time workers do cleaning, laundry, and light food prep, services necessary to keeping seniors in their homes and out of public institutions. The age friendly committee of Nelson CARES has also provided needed support to this program.

Nelson Senior Coordinating also provides a free income tax and financial advocacy service to low income seniors and vulnerable adults. We all know the growing complexity involved in filing an income tax return. Filing a return is essential to maintaining the social income and public services low income seniors and others with low incomes need. In the last year over 700 tax returns and individual advocacy cases were handled by the our CRA qualified volunteers. This essential service has enjoyed the generous financial support of the Nelson and District Credit Union for many years.

Yet another service provided under the Senior Coordinating umbrella is the elder abuse prevention program. These volunteers carry out training presentations on preventing the abuse of elders in many Kootenay communities annually. Clearly the prevention of elder abuse requires proper planning (wills, power of attorneys, representation agreements) and a general awareness. This program’s steering group monitors and supports those agencies in place to protect seniors.

The most successful and growing program currently offered is the low income dental program TEETH. Volunteers and local dental care professionals have come together to provide a subsidized dental program to those in our community who can least afford it. Seniors, working parents, disadvantaged and most importantly, children, are all given increased access to affordable dental care. Recently a low cost denture component has been added to the list of services offered. New dental professionals are welcome to join the work at the clinic to increase access to dental care.

So why am I telling you this? First, to make you aware of what we do. Second, to get some recognition for our dedicated volunteers and financial supporters who make it possible. Finally to ask for your support, either in time or money, to continue our work. All these pragmatic services and others like our grocery run, and reading in local classrooms were initiated and are operated to meet a real need in our community. And that need is clearly increasing.

The society is continually looking both for volunteers to continue the delivery of our programs, clients for whom we can make a difference and donations to help with the costs and subsidies. The Nelson and District Seniors Coordinating Society can provide tax deductible charitable donation receipts for donations to any of its current programs. Call 250-352-6008 for further information.

Brad Howard is chair of the Nelson and District Seniors Coordinating Society.

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