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B.C. seniors feel ‘invisible and forgotten,’ new seniors advocate says

VICTORIA — Seniors in British Columbia are feeling “invisible and forgotten” as their advocate says they are falling thorough the cracks in existing provincial support systems.

In his first report as B.C.’s senior’s advocate, Dan Levitt says affordability was the top concern during visits with hundreds of seniors in more than 20 communities in April.

He says one in four seniors in B.C. earn less than $23,000 a year, which is below the poverty line, and more seniors are at risk of homelessness.

His report outlines what he heard during the tour, confirming that B.C. seniors on fixed incomes are disproportionately affected by the high cost of living.

It says many seniors are unable to absorb increased costs for housing, food, medical equipment, mobility aids and other necessities for healthy aging.

The report makes several recommendations for the province, starting with redesigning the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters program, which Levitt says is failing to ensure low-income seniors aren’t paying more than 30 per cent of their income on housing.

The benefit isn’t tied to inflation or rent increases, Levitt adds.

The report also calls on the province to increase the B.C. seniors supplement and index it to inflation.

It suggests the province eliminate the daily charge for home support in order to help seniors live independently at home, with Levitt noting that neither Alberta nor Ontario have a fee for home care.

The report further recommends that B.C. provide a shingles vaccine at no cost for seniors, while developing a cross-ministry strategy to support seniors with key targets and performance measures.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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