By Michael de Jong
Minister of Health
Oct. 28, 2011
We are all getting older. Over the past two weeks I have been following the Province's series on seniors with interest, as they have explored the many challenges of aging. As Minister of Health, every day I see the hard work being done by physicians, nurses, health science professionals, care aides health care workers, health authorities and Ministry staff on programs and services to support British Columbian seniors. I also have had the opportunity to talk and listen to seniors and their caregivers discuss their concerns and suggestions.
Our aging population is a success story that should be celebrated. The average life expectancy in B.C. is 81.7 years, one of the highest in the world. Countless reports have noted that we are leaders in healthy lifestyles and health outcomes. British Columbia is blessed to be home to hundreds of thousands of vital, active seniors. Our goal, as a government, is to plan and prepare for the needs of an aging population, but it is a shared responsibility of all people, communities, businesses and levels of government.
Seniors have told me that they want to stay in their homes and communities as long as they safely can. To help with that, in September, the Government of B.C. launched our Age-Friendly BC strategy. We have worked with the BC Chamber of Commerce to help create a guide for age-friendly businesses, to address the needs of older workers and customers. We have given grants to the Union of BC Municipalities to support planning and projects that are age-friendly. Since 2007, 86 local governments have been supported in planning and implementing age-friendly projects. Eighteen communities across B.C. now have Seniors Parks to encourage social interaction and healthy lifestyles. As well, Premier Clark announced $30 million recently to help communities invest in local capital projects that will make those communities more active, healthier places for everyone, including seniors. We are fully committed to supporting the integration of community based health services, with family physicians working in closer collaboration with health authorities and community members to coordinate services and meet local needs.
And while government has planned for an aging population by adding and upgrading over 13,000 residential care beds and assisted living units, increasing home care and support funding significantly over the last 10 years, hiring more health professionals and spending over $2.5 billion on home and community care annually - it is also vital for each British Columbian to plan for their future as well. The most important thing anyone can do is talk to their family, their friends and their caregivers about their personal plans and wishes for care. Making an advance care plan can take a tremendous burden off of your family and health provider if something happens and you are unable to make health decisions for yourself. It is also a good idea to look at other things you may need as you age. How close are you to public transit? How many stairs in your home? How close are you to your family and friends? How will you stay socially and physically active?
I recommend that seniors and their families visit our website at www.seniorsbc.ca. There is information on active aging, seniors benefits, healthy eating, connecting socially and living healthy. It also has information for seniors who need care or who need to plan for care. There are links to information on care facilities, including inspection reports, and contact information for resources that help with seniors care.
Seniors are a vital part of all our communities. They are active, vibrant leaders. They volunteer, provide care, and actively participate throughout B.C. We celebrate and thank seniors, who have given so much to our society. We are all getting older. And for that we are truly thankful.