The third annual seniors’ services report, released by the BC seniors advocate on Dec. 14, paints a worrying picture of a rising seniors population, declining services and a housing squeeze.
“The results for 2017 highlight several areas of concern for me,” said BC seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie in a media release. “There is a continued decrease in home support service and adult day programs as well as an increasing lack of affordability for senior renters.”
“These results should also be of concern to the government as lack of support in these areas will drive some seniors into residential care, which is a more costly intervention and one that is least preferred by seniors.”
The report found that average home support hours delivered last year decreased by 3 per cent, while the number of clients increased by 3.5 per cent. However, those numbers do not include data from Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), which includes the Sunshine Coast. According to the report, “Vancouver Coastal was unable to submit data in time for publication. They are in the process of restating their data.”
The report shows an overall 23.5 per cent increase in the number of home care complaints over last year, with the highest increase in complaints (75.9 per cent) in the VCH region (and these figures DO include the Sunshine Coast). The top reasons for complaints were denied, delayed, disrupted or unavailable service, inappropriate type or level of care, and inadequate or incorrect information provided.
Housing is another key area of concern in the report. Since 2005, the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER) maximum rent that qualifies for a subsidy has increased 9 per cent, while rents have increased by 45 per cent (7 per cent in the last year alone). In October 2016 the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the VCH region was $1,159, and the maximum SAFER rent was $765.
Homeowners are also feeling the squeeze caused by soaring property values. In 2016/17, 10,775 homeowners chose to start deferring their property taxes, a 94-per-cent increase over the previous year. (The property tax deferment program is available to people 55 or older and people with disabilities.)
Commenting on the report, community housing consultant, Lee Ann Johnson of Gibsons, says that affordable housing is the number one challenge for seniors on the Sunshine Coast.
“That 60 per cent of homeless shelter users are people over 55 years must raise local alarm bells,” said Johnson. “The Coast clearly needs an increase in the number of subsidized units and a big increase in the SAFER subsidies for people in private rentals.”
She noted that “rental costs here have reached levels comparable to much of the Lower Mainland.”
Among the report’s other findings:
• The number of people 55 or older waiting for a subsidized housing unit increased nearly 16 per cent in the last year alone.
• The seniors abuse and information line received 1,763 calls pertaining to abuse in 2016, a 21-per-cent increase over 2015.
• The seniors supplement, a monthly $49 top-up provided by the provincial government to low income seniors, has not been increased since 1987.
The full report can be read on the seniors advocate’s website, www.seniorsadvocatebc.ca.