Meeting the challenge from a ‘grey tsunami’

Governments at all levels must be prepared to address the challenges of an aging population, before the next wave of the tsunami hits

The steadily growing number of people in B.C. aged 65 and older has been described as a “grey tsunami” – an ominous wave threatening to overwhelm the province’s economy and health-care system.

The last census showed there were more than 20,000 seniors living in Saanich in 2011, and it’s quite likely the number has grown considerably since then. The census showed 18.3 per cent of Saanich’s population is made up of those aged 65 and over, well above the national average.

The Saanich Care Guide found in today’s Saanich News highlights some of the vital services provided to the community’s seniors, as well as the valuable contributions seniors make to the fabric of Saanich. Recent figures highlight some of the challenges this “grey tsunami” will bring to Saanich and other parts of the province.

According to to B.C. seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie, the majority of B.C. seniors are “taking care of themselves, and they’re taking care of themselves on their own dime.”

Ninety-three per cent live independently; 78 per cent of those who own homes have no mortgage; and, the “overwhelming majority” will never live in residential care, Mackenzie said.

Other statistics, however, seem to fly in the face of a rosy outlook for our seniors. And those numbers – including that 24 per cent of senior homeowners have an annual household income of less than $24,000, and the B.C. Seniors Supplement rate (for those with an income of less than $17,000) hasn’t changed in 25 years – merit concern.

For many seniors in our community and beyond, such living situations are untenable over the long term – a seemingly comfortable situation can change for the worse with even the smallest of missteps, be it an increase in rent, a bad investment or an unexpected expense.

Governments at all levels must be prepared to address these challenges, before the next wave of the tsunami hits.

 

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