Member of Parliament, Jean Crowder, was joined by many local seniors and residents in her roundtable discussion of seniors’ issues, on Feb. 11 at the Cowichan Lake Sports Arena.
Recently, the Prime Minister made an announcement to the World Economic Forum that Old Age Security needed to change, but did not indicate what changes specifically would be made. Inevitably, this has raised concerns amongst citizens, young and old, throughout Canada.
Crowder will be hosting a series of roundtables throughout February and March to hear from citizens on the issues and priorities they feel are the most important to aid in preparing Canada for the foreseen increase in senior population.
Main issues and concerns ranged from private and public housing, transportation, changes in local industry, business accessibility for seniors or disabled persons, cost of living, and after care for seniors when being released from hospitals.
Long term, subsidized, income-affordable, care facilities are needed in Lake Cowichan. Currently, residents must leave the community to find care facilities elsewhere. Not only is this hard on the individual that must go to Duncan to obtain the care needed, but it is also incredibly hard on their loved ones to find the transportation to get there to see them.
“The opportunity for significant others to visit loved ones in a care place in Duncan is small,” says Councillor Tim McGonigle.
Concern regarding after care of senior patients when released from the hospital was also brought forward. How are people being released to their homes? Is there proper care for them once they get there? There is even apprehension about the care being offered in the facilities that already exist. Mayor, Ross Forrest notes, “Not only do we need more facilities, we need the Government to change what those restrictions are in regards to facilities.”
Vancouver Island Health Authority’s business conduct was unanimously ostracised during the roundtable meeting.
“We were terrorized and given false information by VIHA,” says resident, Don Gordon. “We knew the population was getting older,” he adds “VIHA and the Government should have seen it coming too. It’s an attempt to put a band aid on a pretty serious wound.”
The consensus among residents seemed to be that VIHA’s conduct has been threatening and unethical. VIHA and the government are who we rely on for our health needs to be met and the mutual feeling seems to be that they are effectively wasting our money and not doing anything to remedy the issues that seniors are facing in regards to health care.
The cost today for a private facility is out of reach for most people. “It’s really clear that we have to stop privatizing,” says Area F Director, Ian Morrison. “We need our public dollars to be administered by people that are skilled at their craft,” he adds.
For many seniors, the average income they receive provides for no more than the bare necessities. “The cost of living is higher and higher,” says senior Symon Whalvin, “We just cannot cope with it.”
A comparison was made by Crowder that it is all about prioritizing, “It’s like our households. We have to prioritize our money.” While many agree that our money needs to be prioritized better by the government, they disagree that they treat it the same as we do in our households. There simply needs to be more accountability for where our money is going.
Today, there are less people with jobs. The industrial restructuring that has taken place just here in our area has been devastating to this community. With all of our natural resources being exported, the result has been closure of mills and loss of jobs. Perhaps there are some new jobs being presented, but they are jobs that offer a much lower pay scale than the jobs that were available when the resource jobs were kept local.
Instead of $20 an hour jobs, there are only $10 an hour jobs available. There are a lot of young people in Canada that would like to go back to school, but cannot afford to take on the debt.
“We have money for training, but is it doing the job we need it to do?” says Crowder. In some ways, yes, it is. There are many programs for young people in school to start training for trades as early as in Grade 10. However, this doesn’t help the people that, because of their age now, cannot be trained for new skills.
Residents would also like to know if there is anything the government can do to make business more accessible. Automatic doors and ramps are luxuries that cannot be afforded by most local business owners. It is the un-accessibility to these businesses that makes it more difficult for local residents to get out and do their shopping in town. Crowder thinks this may be something worth proposing. “Things happen because local community members get involved.” says Crowder.
When asked what the NDP’s policy on all of these issues is, Crowder responded, “This is part of the process of us developing our policy. I am not going to tell you I have an answer, because I don’t,” she continues “We can get stuck in the problems, but I think the seniors are the ones that can attack this.”
Once all round table discussions have been held and information compiled, Jean Crowder’s office will be sending out an overview to communities nationwide.
If you have any further questions or would like to know where additional seniors’ forums are being held, you can contact Jean Crowder at 1-866-609-9998 or on her website at www.jeancrowder.ca.
Crowder’s intentions for the round table was to hear from community members on the issues being felt by seniors now and the priority in which these issues should fall. That, she did. Now it is just a matter of relaying that information back to the federal government to hopefully come up with some real solutions.