Over one hundred seniors took advantage of the opportunity to attend the inaugural seniors town hall meeting on Nov. 10 at the Ladner Community Centre.
All three levels of government were represented on the panel of four, which was a first according to organizers. Delta North MLA Scott Hamilton, Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington and Delta Mayor Lois Jackson were also in attendance.
Carla Qualtrough, MP for Delta and minister of sport and persons with disabilities, focused on federal initiatives for seniors and presented an overview of Canada’s seniors. Qualtrough said that although Canada has the youngest senior population in relation to other G7 countries, it is expected to age more rapidly.
B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie spoke next. B.C. is the only province in Canada that has a seniors’ advocate, whose mandate includes monitoring seniors’ services and issues, and making recommendations to government and service providers. Mackenzie spoke about the key issues facing seniors and the provincial resources and projects that are there to help.
Delta Coun. Sylvia Bishop, chair of Delta’s seniors advisory subcommittee and ML Burke, chair of the seniors housing subcommittee and member of the Delta Seniors Planning Team, also made presentations, including the results from the Seniors 55+ Housing Survey.
Conducted by the Delta Seniors Planning Team at the request of the Corporation of Delta, the survey’s goal was to give the municipality insight into seniors’ housing needs to better plan and implement age-friendly communities. The survey showed that 43 per cent of Delta seniors felt the housing they need is not available.
The panelists took a number of questions from the floor, including one about the feasibility of building tiny homes to create seniors communities. It was suggested by the asker that such dwellings could be economical in both cost and land usage, would enable many seniors to live in their own homes and could include a shared community centre for social activities and events and perhaps even laundry facilities.
“I look forward to hearing about specific housing solutions and when they will be implemented,” Rabi Alam, president of the Senior Liberals Commission of Canada in B.C., told the Reporter. “While there was an abundance of good information presented today, some seniors felt that it was information overload.”
Alam said seniors are looking for solutions to the rising cost of rent, food, health and Pharmacare, as well as the elder abuse that can affect both seniors in care facilities and those who live at home.
“There are three types of seniors,” Alam said. “[First,there are] the very poor, whose sole income is their monthly Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Pension cheques.
“[There are the] marginal seniors who don’t qualify for any subsidies,” Alum continued. “While they have saved for retirement, increased living and health care costs steadily eat away at their limited resources. They are neither wealthy nor [are they] poor enough to qualify for subsidies to offset these increased costs.
“[Lastly, there are] well-off pensioners don’t have financial issues. They are healthy enough to help other seniors if and when governments develop programs to harness the many and varied skill sets of such seniors.”
Alam said he was pleased when, at the meeting’s conclusion, Jackson asked him to organize a seniors town hall for North Delta early in 2017, suggesting the Kennedy Seniors Recreation Centre as a possible venue. He said he also looks forward to organizing a Surrey seniors town hall sometime in April, potentially in Surrey-Newton.
For more about the Nov. 10 seniors town hall and the information that was presented, visit federalslcbc.ca/blog.