Plan with seniors, not for seniors

Seniors want to be involved in planning their own future.

It’s nice to be remembered. And it’s for a whole week, not just 15 minutes.

The provincial government proclaimed June 3 – 9 as Seniors’ Week. Political leaders issued statements about the contributions seniors have made to our province’s economy and society as a whole.

A few of us old folks were talking about it the other day. We’re honoured to have a whole week. Someone noted that mothers and fathers only get a day, and we qualify for those days as well.

It’s always welcome when people say nice things about you – especially when they do so before you’re dead.

But we also came to the conclusion that something is missing in the discussion of seniors’ issues. The key point is that we’re still alive, still as active as we can be, still anxious to help build a better province.

There’s a large demographic shift underway. The people of B.C. and Canada are getting older. It creates both opportunities and challenges. It also creates a real need for political leadership.

We have a hodge podge of approaches to aging. Responsibility is divided among a host of federal and provincial government ministries. Local governments also have a role in creating age-friendly communities.

There’s no doubt it’s easier said than done, but what we really need is a comprehensive, coordinated approach to this demographic change.

The driving force should be to help seniors stay active, healthy and independent.

Too often, government programs treat symptoms rather than reach for the real goal. They put a cast on the broken leg, rather than working to prevent the fall. They provide inadequate home care and home support services, forcing many seniors into residential care homes, or even acute care beds. It doesn’t make sense economically or socially.

Other countries have faced demographic shifts. We’re not the first. Their solutions are quite different from what we see here today. They focus on independence. Home care. Home support. Independent living arrangements. Opportunities for social contact. And public pensions sufficient to lift seniors out of poverty.

We don’t claim that age gives you wisdom, but it does give you experience. Seniors are an asset, not a liability, to society. We have no desire to be put into expensive facilities where we can vegetate and wait to die. We want to fully participate, advocate on public issues, fulfill our responsibilities as citizens, and help to create a more civil society for our children and grandchildren. And we must be involved in planning our own futures.

By Art Kube, president

Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of B.C.

The Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of B.C. (COSCO) is a federation of 80 organizations throughout the province, representing more than 80,000 seniors.