Seniors advocate makes stop in Agassiz

'Going to take time to address recommendations,' says Isobel Mackenzie

B.C.’s newly-appointed seniors advocate stopped in Agassiz last week, to take part in a day of learning for local seniors.

Isobel Mackenzie is the first person to hold the title of Seniors Advocate in the country, and she’ll be working on behalf of B.C.’s seniors out of an office in Victoria. She spoke to a room of about 100 seniors, community workers and health professionals last Thursday at Cheam Village, explaining her role and what she hopes to accomplish for seniors.

Her position was created as a result of the Seniors Action Plan, which was released in 2012.

“There were 176 recommendations in that plan,” she said. “It’s going to take some time to address those recommendations.”

But one of the first jobs will be to streamline the process of accessing seniors’ services. A website is currently being created where all services can be found in one location. Similarly, a 1-800 number is being set up for the same purpose.

“The new 1-800 number will be a beginning to an end of fragmented services,” she said, which is a common complaint from those trying to access services.

Many seniors may not even be aware of the many services available to them, she underlined. Her job is to study and research issues surrounding seniors, and to monitor and review system-wide issues affecting the well-being of seniors. Her office will also take the role of acting on recommendations that were laid out in the 2012 Seniors Action Plan. She’ll do this independently from the province of B.C., she assured the crowd in Agassiz. However, she said her role is not to act as a critic.

“I personally don’t see it as effective to stand up and say ‘what you’re doing is wrong, and what you’re doing is wrong’,” she said. “I feel it’s better to work with the government.”

Mackenzie’s findings won’t be in vain, as the Ministry of Health (currently Terry Lake) is required by law to report any recommendations made by Mackenzie.

She welcomed all seniors to contact her office with any concerns, and encouraged them to seek out resources available to them. Mackenzie also pointed out that seniors play an important role in society, and make up the bulk of the province’s volunteer force. Often times, she said, seniors are being taken care of by their peers.

“Thousands of senior caregivers would have to be replaced is seniors shut down for the day,” she said, illustrating just how important their role, and their health and wellness, are to everyone. About 700,000 people in B.C. are seniors.

 

“I have spent nearly two decades working directly with seniors, their families and their care providers and learning about the individual issues that affect seniors as they age and receive care,” Mackenzie said when she was appointed earlier this year. “I am honoured to accept this important position and look forward to applying my experience as I set priorities and establish my mandate in the coming weeks and months.”

Mackenzie’s talk was part of an all day Seniors Fair at Cheam Village, which included information booths, a lunch, discussions and door prizes.

To contact Isobel Mackenzie’s office in Victoria, email seniorsadvocate@gov.bc.ca.

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