Raising the profile of BC seniors

It’s a fact: across Canada, individuals over the age of 85 now outnumber those under 15. And we’re living longer: there are now more than 8,000 centenarians in Canada. For British Columbians of all ages, these statistics serve as an important reminder that the overall wellness of our seniors must remain a top priority, especially as our province’s population continues to age.

To support this goal, United Way of the Lower Mainland has been a foundational partner in the Raising The Profile Initiative.The goal of this initiative is to highlight the key role played by non-profit and municipal community-based seniors’ services in supporting seniors to build new social connections, remain physically and mentally active, and retain their independence as long as possible.

This work culminated in an inaugural two-day Provincial Summit on Aging where, along with United Way’s Better at Home Program and partners at the BC Ministry of Health, the Active Aging Research Team, and the BC Recreation and Parks Association, United Way helped identify and craft solutions to the most critical issues facing seniors across our province today.

This included capacity building and support for a Community-Based Seniors Services (CBSS) sector which can deliver health promotion and programming.

“Simply put, we are establishing an integrated and supportive senior’s health network that can respond to individual community needs and that can support seniors’ independence, resilience, and social connectedness.” says Kahir Lalji, United Way’s Provincial Manager of Healthy Aging and Better at Home Provincial Director.

Hosted by the City of Surrey, Summit attendees including leaders from all levels of municipal, provincial and federal government, non-profit organizations, health services, and community advocates.

“United Way’s Health Aging Strategy focuses on three pillars: increasing physical activity, reducing social isolation and maintaining and enhancing independence,” says Kahir. “To that end, our work to further the goals of the Summit will continue to help Lower Mainland and BC seniors stay social, active, connected to their communities, and living independently in their own homes for longer.”

At the Summit’s closing address, BC’s Seniors Advocate, Isobel Mackenzie, underscored the importance of community supports as our population ages. A declaration signed by key government and organizational stakeholders at the Summit’s close recognized the importance of community‐based health promotion and prevention work, and the accomplishments and key strategies that continue to strengthen the CBSS sector.

The Summit comes on the heels of 5th Annual United Way Better at Home Provincial Meetup. On November 1 and 2, Better at Home coordinators, assistants and manager from across BC took part in seminars on innovation and technology; self-care tools and practices for grief, loss, and dying; and how to best engage caretakers in the community.

Community-based programs provide tremendous quality-of-life benefits to seniors. Results from a recent survey conducted by Insights West and United Way show that 98% of seniors living in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley say their quality of life is “good” or “very good” – if they attend community-based programs. Benefits from community-based programs include companionship (75%); mental stimulation (69%); and connection to the community (63%).

To find out more about United Way’s commitment to supporting seniors in your community click here.