The attorney’s report underscores the need to expand services in this province
A recent report by Monitoring Seniors Services shows that waiting times for four of the top five surgeries have decreased over the past five years and access to preferred long-term housing continues to improve.
And while some services like HandyDART are beginning to recover from the initial impact of the pandemic, overall five-year trends show a number of services are struggling to meet the demands of an ever-growing BC senior population, said BC Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie.
The report, which it released in late 2022, provides an annual review of the state of services for BC seniors in key areas of health care, housing, transportation, income support, community services and safety.
For the first time this year, the report includes new data on deaths and surgical wait times.
“Overall, we continue to see an increase in BC’s senior population, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of population,” Mackenzie said.
“The number of seniors in our province has increased 17 percent in the past five years, and 20 percent of BC’s population is now over 65 — a 10 percent increase over the past five years.”
Most of the growth is in “younger” seniors, people aged 65 to 74, who make up nearly 60 percent of BC’s senior population
The number of seniors over 85 has increased, but has remained relatively stable in relation to the total population over the past five years, explained Mackenzie.
“It’s important to understand that most seniors in BC are relatively healthy. This tells us that we have not yet begun to feel the real pressure that will come to many programs and services as baby boomers begin to live into their 80’s. We must act now to ensure they are supported in the future,” she said.
While the report highlights progress in surgery wait times and access to preferred long-term care homes, it also highlights the need to improve access to home support, assisted living and long-term care. create more relief for seniors who rent through additional subsidized housing units; Increase in Housing Assistance Subsidy for Elderly Tenants; and a continuing increase in reports of abuse and neglect of elders.
READ MORE: BC Seniors Have Lowest Financial Assistance in Canada, Advocate Says
Trends in the five years:
1. The main growth in the senior population is in the 65-74 age cohort, which increased by 17 percent compared to a 10 percent growth for people over 85. Overall, the proportion of the population aged 65 and over has increased, while those aged 85 and over continue to make up two percent of the total population.
2. Life expectancy at age 65 in British Columbia is 21.8 years; 23.3 years for women, 20.4 years for men and has remained relatively stable.
3. Emergency department visits per 1,000 seniors (65+) are down 10 percent and hospitalization rates are down 6 percent.
4. The rate of publicly funded long-term care beds per 1,000 residents aged 75+ has fallen by 12 percent.
5. The proportion of caregivers taking antipsychotic medication without a diagnosis of psychosis increased 5 percent in the past year and is at its highest level in the last five years.
6. 95 percent of seniors live independently in private housing, while only five percent of seniors live in assisted living or long-term care. A higher proportion of seniors are living independently than five years ago.
7. While the senior homeownership rate has remained relatively stable at 80 percent, the rate of seniors with a mortgage is increasing and now accounts for 32 percent of senior homeowners.
8. New adopters of the property tax deferral program fell, down 23 percent year-on-year and 50 percent compared to 2017-18.
9. The average rent for seniors who take advantage of the senior housing grant increased 13 percent, while their rent grant increased 3 percent.
10. In the last three years, the average rental subsidy for SAFER customers has steadily decreased.
11. The waiting list for subsidized housing for seniors is up 50 percent.
12. Seventy-nine percent (814,010) of seniors hold an active driver’s license, a three percent increase from last year and 19 percent from five years ago.
13. Overall, 93 percent of BC seniors receive old-age insurance, 29 percent receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), and 7 percent receive the BC Seniors Supplement (BCSS). These percentages have remained relatively stable.
14. Calls to the designated bodies – the Seniors Abuse and Information Line and BC 211 – reporting potential abuse and neglect of seniors (including self-neglect) have all increased, as have reports to the RCMP and Vancouver Police of property crime and physical harm to people aged 65 and older.
RELATED: Volunteers had to interview residents at the Langley long-term care home
The Office of the Elderly Advocate is an independent provincial government agency charged with overseeing elder services and reporting on systemic issues affecting elders.
The office also provides information and referrals to seniors and their caregivers by calling toll-free 1-877-952-3181, BC211, by email at [email protected].
Do you have a story tip? Email: [email protected]
Like us on Facebook and follow us Twitter.