Regional Rundown: Support for Kootenays’ aging population

a day-long workshop exploring the implications of the Kootenay-Boundary’s aging population.

Last week, I joined colleagues and partners from all over the Columbia Basin in a workshop titled “The Aging Kootenays: Exploring Impacts and Opportunities,” a day-long workshop exploring the implications of the Kootenay-Boundary’s aging population.

The keynote speaker was Isobel Mackenzie, the Seniors Advocate for the province of B.C. who began by noting that only 4 per cent of all seniors over 65 in B.C. are in residential care.

In fact, 25 per cent of those over 85 years are still living alone in their own home!

Isobel shared graphs and numbers for B.C. and broken down into health regions. Notably, 17.5 per cent of British Columbians are currently over 65, while that percentage goes up to 22 per cent in the Interior Health Region.

The peak will occur in 2031, when 24 per cent of Canadians will be over 65!

More details can be found at www.seniorsadvocatebc.ca.

Other topics included:

• demographics and related implications: Why people choose to live here and stay here. We heard a lot of interesting data collected and analyzed by the Research Development Institute and Selkirk College;

• a review of the supports already in place through Interior Health and underused by seniors aging in place. For a list, go to www.interiorhealth.ca and look for the Guide to Home and Community Care. Services are provided on a sliding scale and are provided free to those who fall into the lower income bracket. It was noted that by some estimates, we currently have only half the beds we will need in the Interior Health region by 2025;

• economic development impacts — the importance of encouraging seniors to keep working and to ensure they are made to feel valued, and that employers are flexible in their demands;

• innovative solutions, which included a pilot project in the Boundary region to encourage young people with or without families to come back to their home community. The project was titled “Project Comeback.”

I came home with a lot of information, including small changes we can make that will make life easier for all of us.

Clara Reinhardt is the mayor of the Village of Radium Hot Springs and a Regional District of East Kootenay director for the Columbia Valley.

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