In preparing this report, I talked with seniors in every corner of the province and I heard frustration and concern over the availability, appropriateness and affordability of housing. Building on my commitment to evidence-based decision making, I undertook to gather data and facts to determine the scope of the issue and to look at possible solutions.
Working with data on seniors’ incomes, the costs of renting and homeownership, and the various subsidy programs that are available, I found that for low and moderate seniors in this province there is a real and genuine need for more financial support in meeting their basic housing costs. Half of B.C. seniors live on $24,000 per year or less and more than 50,000 seniors are living on $20,000 or less. These are incomes that will not rise and many costs related to declining health care are not covered for many of our lowest-income seniors. Some seniors are making ends meet by either living in substandard housing or by foregoing other basic needs and no one wants to see this happen to our seniors in their final years.
Seniors are very clear that they want to live as independently as possible. If living in their own house or apartment with home care is no longer possible, the next logical step would be to move into assisted living. This offers continued independence but with some support and socialization. What I found however, was that, as a result of outdated regulations, many seniors were being denied the ability to stay in assisted living and were being pushed into residential care before it was clinically necessary. When residential care is required, seniors deserve as much as possible to be where they want to be and to enjoy the privacy of their own bedroom and bathroom. While there is some very good residential care in this province, there is more that needs to be done to fulfill our commitment to allow seniors to live where they want as independently as possible.
This report offers potential solutions to some of the more pressing housing issues seniors are facing today. Undoubtedly, this report will serve as a catalyst to raise more issues related to housing that will be the focus of future study. This report is the culmination of many months of work by a very committed staff at the Office of the Seniors Advocate and a very engaged Council of Advisors. It reflects an exceptional level of co-operation on the part of government, health authorities, service providers and most importantly seniors and their families, and I thank you all. There is a collective will to do better, and I am confident that together we can and will do better for our seniors.