NewsChallenges Faced by Seniors in Rural B.C. Highlighted in New Report

Challenges Faced by Seniors in Rural B.C. Highlighted in New Report

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A recently released report by the Officer of the Seniors Advocate sheds light on the significant challenges faced by seniors residing in rural parts of British Columbia, citing a lack of resources and support as prominent issues.

According to the BC Seniors Advocate, Isobel Mackenzie, individuals aged 65 and above in rural areas contend with inferior access to healthcare, lower average incomes, and limited options for long-term care or affordable housing. Mackenzie emphasized, “Seniors everywhere experience difficulties related to aging, but as I’ve traveled the province and examined the data, it’s clear that people who live far from urban centers face even greater obstacles because they have fewer resources to support them.”

The report highlights a disproportionate and rapidly increasing senior population in rural areas of the province, coupled with fewer available resources and services compared to their urban counterparts. Mackenzie stated, “We face a geographical challenge where 86 per cent of our population is concentrated in dense urban cores on 4 per cent of our land mass. The vastness of rural B.C. makes accessing supports by aging seniors more difficult because critical services are spread over a large, sparsely populated area.”

Seniors constitute 25 per cent of B.C.’s rural population, surpassing the 19 per cent in urban areas. Projections for 2032 indicate seniors will comprise 29 per cent of the province’s rural population, compared to 21 per cent in urban B.C.

The report also reveals that 17 per cent of rural seniors lack a family doctor or nurse practitioner, in contrast to 13 per cent of their urban counterparts. Mackenzie expressed the need for increased support, stating, “While I am inspired and heartened by the compassionate, community-minded nature of people who live in rural B.C., it is clear they need more support.”

To address these issues, the report outlines seven recommendations:

1. Develop and Implement a Rural Seniors Housing Strategy.

2. Develop and Implement a Rural Health Human Resource Strategy.

3. Develop and Implement Rural Seniors Home and Community Care Strategy.

4. Develop and Implement a Provincial Long-Term Care and Assisted Living Plan based on equity throughout the province.

5. Develop and Implement a Provincial Rural Transportation Strategy.

6. Improve and Better Promote the Provincial Travel Assistance Program and Hope Air.

7. Increase Rural Representation in Government through the creation of a Ministry or Minister of State for Rural B.C.

The Seniors Advocate urges the implementation of these recommendations to ensure equitable levels of support for seniors, regardless of their residence in rural or urban B.C., allowing them to age well in their home communities.

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