BC’s Ageing Population

Do you have an ageing relative who needs support or care? You’re not alone. Over the next 20 years, the world’s over-60 population is expected to double from 1 billion to 2 billion, accelerating global demand for medication and senior care. By 2040, a projected one out of every four people in British Colombia will be a senior. We have an ageing population, and seniors’ facilities are being inundated with patients without the provincial and federal support they need to stay afloat. BC seniors’ care is underfunded, but advocates are making strides to provide BC seniors with the support they need to live comfortably and stay healthy.

Here, we’ll take a look at what’s working and what needs to be fixed going forward.

What’s Working

In BC, the government regulates Long-Term Care communities and Assisted Living communities – those fall under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act. While Independent Living communities are not regulated, the BCSLA created a Seal of Approval Assessment, a senior living standards tool kit. 

There is currently no government funding for Independent Living Residences, but seniors can apply for the “SAFER Program” (Shelter for Elderly Renters), which can give you a rent subsidy based on your income.

Related: The Best Retirement Homes in North Vancouver

Government-Funded Long-Term Care in BC

Long-term care (24-hour supervision for people with complex care needs) is subsidized by the BC government. If you qualify, you will pay a monthly rate of up to 80% of your after-tax income towards the cost of long-term care services. The BC government calculates your monthly rate based on your “after-tax income.” In BC, the majority of long-term care is delivered by contracted care providers who receive over 1.3 billion of public funding annually. 

The BC government has also committed to increasing amounts of money to raise standards in senior care and general provincial healthcare. 

In 2018, the then-year-old NDP government delivered $548 million from 2018 to 2021 to be spent on seniors’ care. Included in that funding was $280 million from the federal government, aimed at helping seniors stay in their homes by supporting home-support workers. 

More recently, the BC government announced a $440 million plan to expand cancer care. Premier David Eby says the money will go to improving service and screening programs. The initial $440 million will be spent over ten years to address the needs of an ageing population. 

senior healthcare worker checking blood pressure of a senior woman at care home in vancouver

What Needs Improvement

Many seniors in British Colombia are calling for their government to cover the fee of home support costs, relieving them of the burden of paying thousands of dollars for care services.

Neither the Albertan nor Ontarian governments charge senior citizens these fees, and the system seems to be working well.

High Costs For Senior Care

According to a report by CBC, a senior with an annual income of $29,000 is charged $9,000 per year for daily one-hour home support visits. This is certainly not an affordable rate for seniors with other costs such as food, medication, and medical care. That may well be one of the reasons why seniors opt into long-term care, where rates are subsidized, rather than staying in their homes.

BC seniors’ advocate Isobel Mackenzie found that Federal Old Age Security and the Canadian Pension Plan payments that go to seniors have not risen enough to account for the rising cost of dental care, groceries, home care, and more. Many seniors and family members are drowning under these rising costs.

After analyzing nine services for seniors – services related to home support, eye exams, eyeglasses, dental care, hearing aids, monthly income supplements, home repairs, home adaptation, and affordable rental programs – Mackenzie’s report ranked BC as one of the worst senior care providers in the country. BC only provides two of those nine services, and even those two need improvements.

Final Thoughts

If you have an ageing relative who might need care in the future, it’s a good idea to start researching early. Most of us don’t start preparing for a problem until it happens, but in an overburdened system with mounting waiting lists and many limitations, it certainly doesn’t hurt to be proactive.

For the most part, seniors in long-term care in BC are receiving high-quality care from a team of incredibly dedicated individuals. To learn more about care options for yourself or your family, read more about our short-term and long-term services.