Senior citizens in British Columbia are generally healthy and most are living independently.
That’s the assessment of BC Seniors Advocate Isobel MacKenzie, who released her Monitoring Seniors Service report today (Wednesday) in Victoria.
MacKenzie found that “most BC seniors continue to live independently with relatively good health,” but there are challenges for low-income seniors, especially if they are renters.
She says a significant increase to the BC Seniors Supplement was very welcome news for over 65,000 low-income seniors who benefit from the program.
However, the SAFER subsidy, and seniors subsidized housing are not keeping pace with inflation and a growing senior’s population.
She says the average income for seniors receiving the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER) subsidy is less than 17-hundred dollars a month, and the average rent subsidy is down about four percent to $199.
MacKenzie notes that if a senior’s income is $1675 per month and their rent is $1297 each month, even with the subsidy they are still not left with a lot of disposable income.
MacKenzie also says the amount of subsidized housing for seniors is also not keeping up with the need.
“Over the last five years, there’s been a one-percent reduction in the number of units, but perhaps more importantly, there’s been a 14-percent reduction in the number of units per thousand of population 55 and over, so that’s the target population for seniors’ subsidized housing.”
The seniors advocate says “positive advancement has been made on ensuring seniors have been placed in their preferred facility” with a 37 per cent decrease in long-term care residents waiting to move into the facility they choose.
She says the report covers the first full year of the pandemic and many of the numbers reflect the disruption to services that occurred early in the pandemic.
“We see the isolation and loneliness of seniors reflected in the virtual elimination of adult day programs, the significantly lower use of HandyDART and the reduction in trips to the emergency department.”
However, MacKenzie also says the care and concern people have for seniors is evident in the “extraordinary efforts of the Safe Seniors, Strong Communities program” where more than 13,000 volunteers delivered 860,000 services to almost 26,000 seniors.
The 2021 update of the Monitoring Seniors Services report also found:
• The population of seniors in BC increased by 4% in the last year.
• The overall health of BC seniors has remained relatively stable over the last five years. 42% of seniors are either healthy or have a low-complexity condition such as asthma, while 19% live with high-complexity conditions, and 6% have been diagnosed with dementia.
• Emergency department visits and hospitalizations for those over 65 dropped by 9% and 7%
respectively, and there was a decrease of 28% in days spent in alternate level of care.
• 44% of seniors received the publicly funded flu vaccine at a pharmacy (an 8% increase from the previous year) and 10% received it at a physician’s office, while close to 88% received a COVID-19 vaccine.
• There was an 87% decline in Adult Day Program clients and 96% reduction in Adult Day Program days due to the program’s suspension during the pandemic.
• Over the past five years the number of subsidized, registered assisted living units have
decreased by 3%, and private assisted living units have decreased by 26%.
• There was an 11% decrease in the number of BC long-term care facilities inspected due to the impact of the pandemic and this resulted in decreases in infractions.
• Average wait times for clients waiting for admission to long-term care increased by 33%.
• There was a 37% decrease in long-term care residents waiting to transfer to their preferred
facility, demonstrating more seniors are living in their preferred facility.
• The proportion of long-term care residents taking antipsychotics increased by 7%.
• 72,067 seniors accessed the Property Tax Deferral Program and deferred an average of $4,297 in taxes. The number of first-time program users decreased by 15%.
• Over the last 5 years, the number of seniors subsidized housing units per 1,000 population 55+ has decreased 14%.
• The average monthly income of Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER) recipients is $1,675, their average rent is $1,052 and the average rent subsidy provided is $199 per month. The average subsidy dropped by 4% in the last year.
• 80% of seniors maintained an active driver’s license, a 6% increase from last year and there was an increase of 12% in seniors aged 80 and older with an active driver’s license.
• Active HandyDART clients fell by 23%, and HandyDART ride requests by 57%.
• There was a 6% increase in seniors accessing GIS and a 4% increase in seniors accessing the B.C. Seniors Supplement.
• GIS and OAS increased by 3% and the BC Seniors Supplement increased by 101%.