What do B.C.’s senior citizens think should be the role of a seniors’ advocate?
That was the question at issue as Parksville-Qualicum MLA and Parliamentary Secretary for Seniors Ron Cantelon was asking local seniors Monday as he held a special consultation session at the Community and Conference Centre in Parksville.
The meeting, Cantelon said, was the sixth in a series that saw a committee touring the province to get input from both seniors and those charged with looking after them.
Cantelon said the feedback he has been receiving has been clear on at least one point.
“One thing we are hearing is that we had better listen,” he said. “There are a lot of seniors and their interests are important.”
As well though, he said discussion has ranged from whether the seniors’ advocate should serve as an information hub, collecting information to help people navigate the health system, as well as others.
“There are lots of networks in the community that help seniors, so when an individual needs help, where does he or she go,” he said. “As well, we are hearing there’s a need to support those groups, but also to collect all the information so people know how to navigate the system and get the help they need.”
Cantelon was joined by caucus outreach director Pamela Martin, who said some of the issues being discussed go right down to the very basics.
“We are even defining how you define a senior,” she said. “In the Iranian community, if your children have grown up and left home, you might be 49, but you are considered a senior, whereas in other cultures you can be 80 years old and out there conquering the world.”
There have been other divides as well, Cantelon added.
“Rural issues are very different from urban,” he said. “For instance, it’s very different today than it was in Vancouver, where the multicultural aspect is extremely important. There’s a huge Korean and Chinese population that we don’t have here.
“As well, there are urban areas where seniors are pretty well hooked into services, but there are other, remote areas where they aren’t.”
Cantelon noted he is hearing seniors want an advocate who is both independent of government but also able to get things done.
“They are saying they want someone who can enforce and change things, not just with government, but also with private business,” he said.
Many of the concerns raised to date on the tour, he said, relate to health care and related issues, such as abuse, however Cantelon said he’s open to covering any topic of concern.
The tour, which began in Victoria on May 29, will next sit in Kelowna on June 20, before moving on to Cranbrook, Prince George and Dawson Creek.