Minister defends seniors’ care in BC

Since most seniors live independently, it is incumbent upon government to ensure they are living as well as possible, in all ways.

Re: “Ministry must follow through for Nelson area seniors,” Letters, October 5

As Minister of State for Seniors, I feel compelled to respond.

Notwithstanding the heavily negative tone of this letter, the reality is that the ministry is “following through” and that the circumstances in which seniors in British Columbia find themselves is more often than not a success story. Indeed, because we all must age, I argue that seniors should certainly do so in British Columbia if they are privileged to have that choice.

For example, British Columbians are living longer and we enjoy longevity which is almost at the top of the global rankings. The province has a growing seniors’ population as a result of seniors from other parts of the country — and the world — coming here to spend their senior years. The popularity of aging in BC is a tribute to the excellence of our seniors system, and something to be celebrated, but of course, improvements are always possible.

It should come as no surprise that the medical, social, community, budgetary, transportation and other demands placed upon our society by this shift in demographics requires society, and government, to adapt.

I mention society first, since the vast majority of our seniors live at home. Health authority subsidized residential care services are provided to six per cent of the total senior’s population in BC — the narrow segment of our population which your writer chooses to focus upon.

Since most seniors live independently, it is incumbent upon government to ensure they are living as well as possible, in all ways. Accordingly, the government has spent the last decade focusing on expanding the range of care options for seniors.

Also, since the menu of services offered by government in residential care, in communities and at home has expanded, so too has difficulty in understanding and navigating the system. Therefore, government is expanding its efforts to help seniors and their families navigate the system, to easily access information about care options, and to have a clear and simple way understand the services available.

Your correspondent lists many issues and problems. Yes, there are issues and problems. Your readers should be glad to know that most of the points raised are being addressed.

I would also direct your readers, seniors and their families to newly packaged information online, and in print through the redesigned SeniorsBC website and the new (10th) edition of the BC Seniors’ Guide. If you wish to receive a free copy of the BC Seniors’ Guide, simply call 1-877-952-3181.

Since your open letter focuses on the small minority of the population resident in government-owned or subsidized residential care facilities of one sort or another, it does not address the vast majority of seniors in our province who will never reside in a long-term care home. More than 90 per cent of seniors live at home — which is the preference of most seniors. Accordingly, it is the government’s strategy to increasingly devote resources to the provision of home and community services for this broad segment of the public.

As for my new assignment as Minister of State for Seniors, I have undertaken to get out and about, meeting seniors, their families and stakeholders — and perhaps including those in the Nelson area. I look forward to hearing of your additional concerns first hand.

Ralph Sultan

Minister of State for Seniors

 

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