B.C. appoints seniors advocate

The BC Liberals have appointed Isobel Mackenzie as Canada’s first seniors advocate.

Isobel Mackenzie takes on the job as B.C.’s first seniors advocate.

In keeping with the provincial trend of addressing the increase in need of seniors’ services, the BC Liberals have appointed Canada’s first seniors advocate.

Isobel Mackenzie, who brings with her 18 years of experience working on behalf of seniors, has accepted the appointment.

“I am confident that we have found a strong voice for British Columbia’s nearly 700,000 seniors and I welcome Isobel as our first seniors advocate,” said Health Minister Terry Lake.

The Office of the Seniors Advocate will monitor seniors’ services, promote awareness and work collaboratively with seniors, families, policymakers, service providers and others to identify solutions to systemic issues and make recommendations to government on ways to improve care for our aging population.

These recommendations will range from areas like health and personal care to housing and income support.

“I have seen first-hand the issues, the challenges and the choices facing our seniors, their families and their caregivers,” said Mackenzie. “I have witnessed the profound desire of seniors to maintain their dignity and independence.”

Communities are also taking steps themselves to address seniors issues. Golden was recently the recipient of a grant to make an age-friendly community plan. Golden’s plan will target areas like transportation, civic participation, community support, health services and housing.

The appointment is in line with the Province’s Seniors Action Plan (2012), and has been advocated for by many groups.

The New Democrats are among the groups who have been calling for a dedicated seniors representative, but are not 100 per cent satisfied with the new position, arguing that Mackenzie has not been given enough power.

“This advocate is not empowered to look at individual issues facing seniors,” said NDP seniors critic Katrine Conroy. “These individual issues often signal systemic problems.”

Mackenzie officially takes her post on March 31 and will advise government and service providers in an independent manner, meeting with the minister a minimum of once a year. All her reports and recommendations will also be made public.

That promise to create the advocate position came after the B.C Ombudsperson issued a highly critical report in 2011 on problems in seniors’ care with 176 recommendations that critics say have largely been ignored.

With files from Black Press

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