It’s not until you hear from those at ground level do you get a real feel for a societal issue.
What we heard this week from staff at the Society of Organized Services (SOS) about how many senior citizens in our region are living was shocking and sad.
Couch-surfing seniors? Wasn’t that something done by 20-something dudes who would rather surf than work? OK, that was a little insensitive to those who are couch-surfing due to no fault of their own, but the visual of someone in their 70s who is couch surfing is disturbing and difficult to absorb.
Seniors going without glasses or dental work — painful situations health and social-wise — just to make sure they have a meal, then halving those meals to make the food last?
Seniors here, we are told, are choosing food over home repairs and watching the value of their homes plummet. This is the money they could eventually use to get into a home or travel or leave a legacy for loved ones — that nest egg is decreasing along with the value of their homes.
We make an effort in Parksville Qualicum Beach to honour seniors for the work they have done to build our communities. We have three active Royal Canadian Legion branches that do fantastic work. We have some of the most impressive and well-attended Remembrance Day ceremonies in the country.
Despite all that, we seem to be failing many of our seniors when it comes to day-to-day needs.
It’s easy to point the finger at various levels of government, and to a degree it’s appropriate. The wheels of government funding turn too slowly, and often need a grassroots push to even start moving.
The Kiwannis Housing Society in Qualicum Beach, with the significant help of town taxpayers and other groups, took the bull by the horns and is making a difference. The Bowser Seniors Housing Society is trying to do the same, but have only managed to raise $40,000 of the roughly $2 million it needs for its laudable, reasonable plan. There are other groups in Parksville making the effort too.
Still, the day-to-day needs — food, medication — of many seniors in this region are not being addressed. These are not 20-year-olds who are turning their nose up at a $12/hour job and living on social assistance. These are community builders in the autumn of their lives who deserve our love and attention.
The whole notion of aging in place is a good one. The experience and counsel of seniors is something all communities should embrace. But when we hear aging in place, we don’t think of grey-haired couch surfers.
— Editorial by John Harding