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Get moving on elder care facilities

Time to start thinking in long-term to prepare for wave of impoverished seniors
Graham Hookey

Although the Baby Boom generation has yet to work its way to the stage of needing senior care, the facilities for alternative housing for seniors no longer able to care for themselves are already in short supply.

This problem is only going to get worse, compounded by the fact that many seniors will find themselves poor when they retire and, thus, private options may not be able to make up for the shortage of government supported facilities.

Part of the problem in dealing with this issue is that governments tend to think fairly short-term. They may talk long-term, but they act short-term.

The aging population has been talked about for many years, and yet the medical system, the elder residence system and the institutions that can deal with the elderly with mental and emotional difficulties are already overwhelmed.

There is some uncertainty that makes precise planning difficult.

The health of the elderly has improved dramatically in the past 20 years and the development of heart procedures and cancer treatments have extended the life span quite a bit, even as the absolute number of elderly people has increased.

Those making predictions 30 or 40 years ago couldn’t have seen this coming.

But what about those who saw it coming 10 years ago?

Now that the shortages are glaringly obvious, with almost weekly news stories about seniors who cannot get the services they need, what are the plans to build the facilities that will, in the not-too-distant future, be necessary to provide adequate support for those who need it?

I have heard some people say that Baby Boomers will bring a lot of money into their senior years and be able to pay a lot more for private services to relieve the government from its responsibility, but that appeals to me as both naive and optimistic.

Many people are retiring with debt; many seniors have few assets outside the value of their home and any housing correction would hit them hard; many, many seniors have no savings or pensions.

I am sure a lot of studies have been done and the scope of the problem is well understood by someone, but I have been listening to some talk of such matters from politicians for the past year or so and I have heard virtually nothing.

If there is a plan to deal with projected shortages, it must be a secret plan.

I listened to a story last week of a B.C. senior, a woman, who was being housed in an eldercare home not set up to support her dementia. The family found that she was being restrained in a chair for long periods of the day and were devastated to imagine her tied down “like an animal” during the day.

Although supervisors in the home were sympathetic to the family’s concerns, the reality is that there were no openings for her in appropriate facilities and the only way they could protect her from an accident in her current environment was to use restraining methods.

It was heartbreaking to think about that happening to a loved one, but unless someone gets moving on an expansion plan of facilities to care for the elderly, it’s a story we may all get to experience soon.


Graham Hookey writes about education, parenting and eldercare (

About the Author: Black Press Media Staff

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