Affordable housing, elder abuse, and dementia are hot topics for seniors, according to the provincial minister dedicated to the needs of the elderly.
Local seniors were able to chat on Thursday with the Minister of State for Seniors, Ralph Sultan, when he came to the Ridge Meadows Seniors Activity Centre on Thursday meeting to lead a discussion on seniors' issues.
Sultan said he advocates three strategies to help seniors: keep them in their own homes as long as possible, let seniors help other seniors, and plan with seniors, not for them.
Sultan said he's a typical senior, in his 80s, and living by himself in a big house full of stuff he accumulated during his 43 years of marriage before the passing of his wife.
With about 92 per cent of seniors still living in their own homes, Sultan said government should ensure they are able to stay there as long as possible.
But affordable housing, like for other segments of the population, is a concern for seniors as well, Sultan said.
Making the problem worse, however, is that many communities don't want low-income housing, he added.
"If you can provide good housing - affordable, safe, age-friendly - you've gone a long way to solving problems for seniors," Sultan said.
While many seniors are still living in their own homes, they need to be supported more so they can continue to live there.
"We should try to do everything as a government. to keep them at home," Sultan said.
The government has given $15 million to the United Way to explore what kind of home care seniors need to help them stay living in their own homes, for example, help with things like sweeping and cleaning leaves from gutters.
Sultan said he heard that three local seniors have ended up in Ridge Meadows Hospital this holiday season because they hurt themselves putting up Christmas lights.
Peer support from seniors is another area the government would like to focus on, Sultan said, but, in his discussions with seniors, "I find most seniors saying 'we're already doing that' and they enjoy doing it."
There are 30,000 government-subsidized care home spots, but, Sultan said, that will have to double over the next 15 years.
"We have to learn how to do this efficiently [but] with humanity," he said.
He pointed to the incident last week whereby a senior was not checked on for three days in Summerland and ended up dying.
"Maybe we need new regulations. these things should never, never happen," he said.
Elder abuse is another topic that concerns the minister of state for seniors, and he said there are disturbing stories of children stealing from their elderly parents.
The provincial government has published a guide to planning advance care entitled My Voice: Expressing My Wishes for Future Health Care Treatment.
It includes topics like developing an advance care plan with a focus on life support and life-prolonging medical interventions; advance care planning options, for example, temporary substitute decision maker and power of attorney; and changing or cancelling an advance care plan.
The advance care guide is available at www.gov.bc.ca - click on "Seniors" and look for Advance Care Planning to download the guide.
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