EDITORIAL: Independent seniors a boost to community

A new report from the B.C. Seniors’ Advocate suggests seniors are losing their independence faster than they need to.

As we age, our ability to live independently is gradually stripped from us. But a new report from the B.C. Seniors’ Advocate suggests that is happening faster than it needs to.

According to Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie, many seniors are being moved into residential care facilities before they need that level of care thanks to what she calls outdated and restrictive regulations. Many seniors could instead be accommodated in assisted living programs and facilities, retaining more of their independence later in life.

Independent, active seniors are a big part of the community in Penticton where they make up a significant portion of the population and are still contributing members of the community and economy through countless hours of volunteer effort. Helping them maintain that independence should be the goal, rather than encouraging them into residential care, sometimes forcing them to leave their homes and community to find an open space.

Mackenzie’s report calls for a “fundamental redesign” of regulations for registered assisted living, to change spousal eligibility and reduce the number of higher functioning seniors moving to residential care.

The report recommends changes like allowing seniors to apply for a provincial loan against equity in their home to pay for repairs, again allowing them to stay in the home and community they have loved for decades.

Many of those homes are valuable, but that doesn’t mean much to a senior living alone on a fixed income, without spare cash to pay for repairs.

It’s easy to think of seniors as not having much of a part in society other than playing with their grandchildren, but in Penticton, it’s common for a senior to mention that they have been busier since retirement than in their working life.

It’s time the government recognized that becoming a senior doesn’t mean you are no longer a vital part of society and helped support seniors in their quest to remain independent.