British Columbia has the lowest financial support for seniors in Canada

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A report by BC’s Seniors Advocate says the province ranks last in Canada for providing key financial support to seniors, with 84 per cent of its low-income seniors sometimes running out of money to buy food.

British Columbia offers the fewest supports and services for seniors in nine regions, said Isobel Mackenziewhose review makes 10 recommendations.

“When you look at this big picture, you have to recognize that seniors in British Columbia do not receive the same level of financial support and subsidy for the things they need as seniors in other provinces and territories. “, she said Thursday at a press conference.

“When we looked at that in the territories and provinces, British Columbia was the lowest,” Mackenzie said.

The report ranked provinces and territories based on their provision of a range of health services and financial support. They included home care, eye exams, eyeglasses, dental care, hearing aids, monthly financial supplements over $100, home repairs, home adaptations, and rental subsidies with caps income over $31,000.

British Columbia provided two of the nine supports – eye exams and home adaptations – while Alberta and Ontario covered seven and the Yukon topped the list with support in all nine categories. said Mackenzie.

Mackenzie recommended that British Columbia index its monthly senior supplement to inflation and revamp the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters program to reflect the realities of rising rents.

The government should also provide annual bus passes and other transportation services to older people with accessibility issues, she said.

Housing Minister Murray Rankin did not address B.C.’s rankings in the report, but said in a statement that the government had increased housing for seniors since its first election in 2017.

“Older people deserve safe, affordable and dignified housing,” he said. “To better meet the housing and support needs of low-income seniors, we have increased the number of subsidized housing units available, with more than 28,000 new units completed or underway since 2017.”

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Seniors are eligible for most of these new units, some of which are specially designed for seniors, he said.

The Department of Health said in a separate statement that the province has provided about $2 billion since 2017 to improve care for the elderly, including spending on primary care, home care, long-term care , assisted living and respite services.

“Despite the historic investments the government has made in care for the elderly, this report shows that much more needs to be done to make life more affordable for older people,” he said.

“We recognize this and we will continue to make investments that improve the quality of life for seniors in British Columbia, providing them with the quality health care they deserve.

Opposition Liberals said the government must take the report seriously and make changes to ensure seniors get the care and support they need.

“Seniors deserve to age with dignity, but the sad reality is that they fall through the cracks,” Liberal Seniors Services Critic Shirley Bond said in a statement.

“The overlapping crises of recent years – affordability, housing, health care and the pandemic – have all had a disproportionate impact on older people, and yet this government has taken no meaningful action to ensure that older people of British Columbia are properly supported.

Mackenzie said the review involved a provincial survey of 10,000 low-income seniors and consultation with more than 80 community organizations working with seniors.

The review highlighted the financial challenges faced by seniors receiving government pensions in times of rising costs.

Mackenzie said many seniors don’t have private benefit plans and must pay for the costs of dental care, hearing aids, glasses, walkers, wheelchairs and other medical equipment not funded by Province.

“In 2019, the median income of seniors in British Columbia was $30,750. That means half of BC seniors live on less than $30,750 a year, which is below minimum wage,” Mackenzie said.

The study indicates that 25% of seniors in British Columbia earn less than $21,000 per year. The average annual income for people of working age in British Columbia is $51,170.

Mackenzie said the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters program, which is designed to limit seniors’ rent to 30% of their monthly income, is failing.

Beneficiaries of the SAFER program in Vancouver now spend more than 60% of their income on rent, and 80% of people in the program have an income of less than $25,000 a year, she said.

Rankin’s statement acknowledged the challenges that higher rents pose for seniors despite increased payments under the SAFER program.

He said BC Housing is “currently reviewing the SAFER program, and recommendations on how we can better support seniors with housing costs are expected in the coming months.”

The review found there has been a 78 per cent increase in food bank use by older people in British Columbia over the past five years, Mackenzie said.

She also revealed that half of low-income older people worried about being able to stay in their homes as they got older, she said, while more than four in five sometimes lacked money for food.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 22, 2022.

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