Newly appointed Minister of State for Seniors Ralph Sultan (West Vancouver-Capilano) was on a tour of the East Kootenay this week with stops in the Elk Valley, Invermere, Kimberley and Cranbrook.
He was accompanied by BC Liberal candidate for Columbia River Revelstoke, Doug Clovechok.
Sultan says that contrary to what Opposition Party members might say, he is not hearing a lot of complaints from seniors.
“I would say, from listening to seniors, that most seem to feel life is pretty good,” Sultan said. “You do hear the odd lament about transportation for specialized medical services and cost of living increases, but by and large, if the rest of BC had it as good as seniors here, they would be pretty happy.”
What seniors in smaller centres like Kimberley have, Sultan said, is a sense of community.
He says with the seniors population growing, and seniors living longer, new ideas are essential.
“While we try to figure out how seniors will be looked after, it is necessary for seniors to help each other, to rely on each other. Seniors in this area know that. They do it already. But in Vancouver, it’s not as commonplace. That sense of community has been lost in large centres and we need to rebuild it.
“But I’ve heard surprisingly few stories about what’s not working .”
Sultan says his recent tours around the province allow him to harvest ideas and bring them to the cabinet table. New ideas are essential as the senior population grows. He points to companies like Golden Life as innovators in the delivery of seniors care.
“Our government has seen this continuing trend of more seniors coming into the province. We’re living longer. In my tours of the last six weeks, I’ve met three people over 100. We are going to have an awful lot of what I call super seniors.
“One of our strategies as we look at the pending increase in the age of the population is where seniors live. We believe in ‘Better at Home’. It’s better to provide resources so seniors can stay home longer. It’s money well spent if you can keep people in their own homes. It’s what seniors themselves want.”
Sultan says it is important to plan with seniors, not for them.
“It’s too complicated, there are too many local variations. We have to pick the brains of seniors across the province. I can act as a conduit to the cabinet.”
As for the health care system, Sultan says that more than half of all Ministry of Health expenditures on health are spent on seniors.
“Seniors will soon represent 25 per cent of the population of BC,” he said. “Collectively, seniors are a big chunk of the economy in terms of what is spent.
“BC has a good health system compared to the rest of Canada,” Sultan said. “Our costs are among the lowest in Canada. Our friends in Alberta don’t know how to run an efficient health care system. They just dump money in, but the outcomes are not great. They have forgotten you need good management.”