The provincial government is planning to create an advocate for seniors but no one seems to know what the position entails.
One of 10 public consultations across the province was held Monday in Prince George.
"I'm really hoping this meeting will result in better healthcare for seniors in the province, but I'm not sure what that looks like," said Lola Dawn Fennell, Prince George Council of Seniors manager. "Wading through the health care system is one major concern. How to access information and not understanding the system and what's available to seniors are big issues that need to be addressed. I'm not sure what to expect of this meeting but any step is a good step."
The public consultations encouraged seniors, their families, service providers and other organizations to help define the role of a seniors advocate.
"We want to find out how people think a seniors advocate would work best for them," said Pamela Martin, director of outreach for the Office of the Premier. "People want a seniors' advocate that has a connection locally. They don't want it to be some distant thing. There's a lot of organizations that help seniors right now and they're saying we should connect these organizations and help seniors navigate the system. There's a lot of services available but it seems it's very complicated to figure out."
Representatives from seniors groups across the region met in the morning and the discussion was opened to the public in the afternoon. There were representatives from Smithers and Terrace, as well as Northern Health, AiMHi, RCMP victim services and local seniors centres.
RCMP victim services program manager Cindy Osip wants someone in the know to be the seniors advocate and there should be a strong focus on low-income seniors.
"We need blood and bones in that office," said Osip. "We need someone who knows seniors. We don't need an armchair quarterback. We need someone who will make positive changes."
Parliamentary Secretary for Seniors Ron Cantelon talked about the new toll-free telephone number for BC seniors and their families.
"The new seniors' support help line is very effective and has taken 268 calls since it started June 1 and only 13 needed to be followed up," said Cantelon. "The rest of the calls were answered by a real person on the line. It's working well and that will teach us too what some of the systemic problems are that should be addressed next."
People unable to attend a consultation can still have their say on the role of an advocate until the end of July by emailing or writing. This input will help define options for the role and function of the Office of the Seniors Advocate, including how the office could collaborate with existing organizations.
More information about the plan, including progress on various actions and a discussion paper on the seniors advocate, can be found online at: www.seniorsbc.ca
People wishing to send in their ideas for what a seniors' advocate should be can submit in writing by July 31, 2012 to Seniors Action Plan, Ministry of Health, PO Box 9825, Stn Prov Gov, Victoria, BC V8W 9W4 or e-mail SeniorsAdvoc...@gov.bc.ca.