Personal Best: Celebrating Seniors Week

Seniors play a vital role in B.C. society, and their numbers are growing

This coming week, June 3 – 9, has been designated as Seniors Week by the province in recognition of the various contributions seniors have made in establishing a province that reflects a unique economic, cultural and ethnic heritage, so says the official Government of British Columbia Proclamation.

It goes on to say that this week is to acknowledge the diversity of seniors and to increase public awareness of their vital role in B.C. society. And our numbers are growing. Stats Canada released 2011 census results that show that seniors’ populations have increased by 15 per cent from 2006 to almost five million seniors. Another news story said that this province has more older people than anywhere else in Western Canada. Stats Canada also points out that there are more people aged 65 and over than children aged zero to 14 in British Columbia. With these increasing numbers seniors in this province hold an increased proportion of voting power and have the ability to make changes happen if they are unhappy with the current status quo.

An ongoing and prime example of changes that need to be made are around HandyDART, our special needs transportation system, available to people with disabilities and used by many seniors who have mobility issues. This system has multiple problems including a delayed provincial policy revue promised by BC Transit more than three years ago with no sign yet of any progress or conclusion. And when a problem needs to be addressed the same old excuse is trotted out again and again – they are awaiting the policy revue and nothing gets done.

Recently there was a problem of a HandyDART user who was refused transportation services to her weekly volunteer position on a Thursday because they said HandyDART has only two buses operating that day and they could not accommodate her. This may seem to be a trivial problem but for this particular person who gets great satisfaction and self esteem by volunteering it was devastating and removed her opportunities to participate in her community. It is but one example of the ongoing situation here including many seniors that have to cancel medical appointments because HandyDART is not available no matter how far ahead they ask for this service. These problems need to be addressed and I hope will be a prime concern of our new Vernon Accessibility Advisory Committee to Council.  Or maybe our politicians will realize that seniors have the voting power to make changes, including changes in government.

I was appalled last week to read about the proposed legislation that bans information on farm outbreaks and overrides the Freedom of Information Act. What can the B.C. Liberal government be thinking? Looking at the May 22 issue of The Province newspaper’s comments explaining the proposed legislation raises all sorts of alarm bells as the government seems to be choking off access to information that could be vital to our health and welfare. Apparently the Animal Health Act expressly over-rides B.C.’s Freedom of Information Act, effectively preventing any citizen or journalists from publicly identifying the location of an outbreak of agriculture-related disease such as the deadly bird flu and other disasters. For instance, if you should hear about an outbreak, or if you were employed at an affected farm, you would be breaking the law by speaking publicly about it or bringing concerns to the media. While this act may contribute to the financial success of individual farms and industry, how can this legislation be in the best interest to the health and welfare of most of the citizens of B.C.? If you have questions about this you can e-mail Premier Kristy Clark, just as I will be doing, at premier@gov.bc.ca.

You can contact me at blackmail1@telus.net if you have questions or comments.