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Seniors’ Advocate Calls for Sweeping Changes for Housing

Thursday, May 21, 2015 @ 10:57 AM

Seniors-Housing-in-B_C_-Cover-233x300Prince George, B.C.- B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie says when it comes to housing for seniors there is a need for major change.

Mackenzie met with thousands of seniors in preparation of the reportwhich presents 18 recommendations. (full report available here)

“Overwhelmingly what I heard from Seniors, ‘I am worried, I am not going to be able to live in my house in my community as I age”.

She says there is an assumption that seniors are being housed in a way that is appropriate and affordable and available, and that is not necessarily the case.

Among the 18 recommendations in the report, Mackenzie proposes a bold new initiative to help senior homeowners afford to stay at home, calls for increases to rent subsidies for seniors, demands a commitment from the province to address lack of appropriate housing in rural B.C., argues for a fundamental redesign of assisted living, and presses for more action on getting seniors into the residential care facility of their choice.

The report highlights that 93% of seniors are living independently, and the help they need is mostly financial. “There are seniors who are doing well and don;t need any help there are seniors who are doing ok and need a little help, and it is also true there are seniors who are not doing well and need a lot of help”

The median income for seniors in BC is $24 thousand a year..

“I am very concerned that some seniors are going without some of the basics in order to meet their rent obligations. There are many health costs, such as dental care and hearing aids, that are not covered. This can have a significant impact on the health and well-being of seniors,” states Mackenzie.

For the 80% of seniors who are homeowners, Mackenzie recommends a bold new initiative, a “Homeowner Expense Deferral Account” program that would give low-income seniors the ability to defer paying housing costs such as hydro, home insurance, and major repairs and maintenance. The province would pay these expenses on behalf of the senior and then collect the money back when the house is sold.

“A new roof or the need to fix a dilapidated deck may be a cost that forces a senior out of a house they have loved for decades. Living in a house that is worth $500,000 or even a million dollars does not mean much if you’re living alone on $24,000 a year or less, which is the median income for seniors in B.C., and you can’t find the cash to pay the bills. This kind of program would help seniors afford to live independently for as long as possible.”

Mackenzie’s recommendations also call for sweeping changes to the province’s Registered Assisted Living program to allow seniors living in these settings to remain there as long as possible, even if their health care needs change.

“The evidence shows us very clearly that assisted living could be accommodating more seniors than it does currently,” says Mackenzie. “Regulations around assisted living are outdated and too restrictive and critically need to be re-designed,” stated Mackenzie.

The report also calls for the province to commit to meeting the standard of single room with ensuite bathroom for 95% of all beds by 2025 and recommends changes to the process of how seniors get to their preferred residential care facility.

“Seniors in this province have a right to live in homes they can truly feel proud of and I think we can all agree that a room of your own with your own bathroom is really the standard for seniors in the 21st century,” states Mackenzie.


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