Overdue showdown at the Seniors’ Corral

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When I was a kid there was a country and western song about a gunfighter named Liberty Valance that detailed the fright he caused whenever he came to town. I’m guessing that’s a little how the B.C. government feels whenever seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie “comes to town.”

Full credit to the Liberals for creating the first such post in all of Canada. But are they going to actually listen to her recommendations — because, you guessed it, they’ll cost money — or will it continue to be business as usual for the 820,000 people in our province 65 and older?

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Mackenzie came to Dodge last Saturday, May 23, and gave an almost capacity crowd at the Sechelt Seniors’ Centre a rundown on the housing portion of the report she delivered last Thursday in Vancouver.

The gist of what Mackenzie said centred on keeping older people in their own homes or assisted living accommodations for as long as possible. The alternative is costly (in more ways than one) residential care.

Mackenzie’s background is in the non-profit sector with extensive experience in care delivery. She strikes me as a knowledgeable, no-nonsense, compassionate woman. When the numbers went up in her presentation showing the reality many seniors in our province face, asset rich but cash poor, her concern wasn’t only reflected in her words but in her countenance. Here, I thought, is someone who actually cares about the hardships many endure.

Her practical suggestions to revisit the criteria of assisted living to allow more people to age there made sense. Details are available at www.seniorsadvocatebc.ca

And she didn’t stop there. Instead she urged the government to increase the subsidy paid to renting seniors and to offer a government-backed line of credit to homeowners. The Vancouver Sun summed up the plan in Friday’s paper this way: “The Homeowner Expense Deferral Account would allow low or moderate income seniors to hold off making payments for utilities, home insurance and repairs until their death or the house is sold.” At that time the province would get its money back.

Health Minister Terry Lake is on record as saying he’s intrigued by the changes Mackenzie is advocating. I hope that’s not politician-speak for “let’s sit on this until the little people squeal.”

This plan has a great deal of merit. If you care about what happens to a large portion of the folks on the Coast — over 25 per cent and climbing — then let Mackenzie or our MLA Nicholas Simons know. It’s high time we stepped out of the shadows and faced our fears.

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