Seniors in White Rock and South Surrey are among concentrated populations in the Lower Mainland in acute need of support and resources, and the problems will only escalate when the population increases substantially in the near future, according to a United Way report.
The report states that by 2036, the region’s population aged 65 and up is expected to double – with one in four people qualifying as a senior. However, according to Michael McKnight, president and CEO of the United Way in Lower Mainland, the province is not doing enough, as is, for vulnerable seniors and is ill-equipped to handle the increase in the demographic.
“We are not prepared at all,” said McKnight. “Five or six years ago, we stepped back and looked at the leading issues in our province – the ones people recognize and those that aren’t on their radar. With the senior demographic, we saw no leadership on how to be prepared for the fundamental change in our community.”
According to McKnight, the top priority for the United Way is to come up with an integrated strategy addressing the aging population and its needs. However, that strategy will require input and support from the municipal and provincial government, he said.
“It has to be a combination of entities, like many things in B.C., there is no single solution or any particular organization that can solve the issues that are confronting us,” McKnight said.
In the report, there are a number of issues that face the current population of seniors in the region, including economic insecurity, social isolation and inaccessible transportation – one of the biggest problems that seniors face, McKnight said.
Inaccessible transportation can result in a slew of other problems, including isolation, causing mental health issues and physical problems, further straining the public health sector.
The United Way plans to more than double its annual investment for vulnerable seniors in the region to $7 million, but the province needs to step up as well, McKnight said.
“It’s a call to action. We are doubling the money and putting it towards the issues of seniors and we hope we can get the provincial government to the table so we can figure out how to collectively address the issues.”