Just about any day of the week, things are bubbling with activity at any one of the seniors’ centres around town. There might be a bridge tournament or foot care clinic happening at the Brunswick Seniors’ Centre, an afternoon birthday tea party at the Hart Pioneer Centre, a rollicking song, dance and drama night at the Elder Citizens Recreation Centre, or maybe an afternoon of bingo at Spruce Capital Seniors Recreation Centre. And chances are, if it concerns seniors or seniors’ issues, the Prince George Council of Seniors knows what is going on.
“Life is good for many members of our aging population,” said advocacy committee member Terry Burgess. “There are all kinds of cultural pursuits, retail outlets and restaurants offering discounts for seniors. And some improvements in health care.
“But it could be better,” he said.
And that is where the COS comes in. To help seniors and volunteers working together to support and enhance the quality of life of all seniors in the community. In any way they can, whether through lobbying and advocacy or information and programs. “We do some lobbying but not as much as the national group.”
Seniors in Prince George, and probably across the nation, are worried about three main things, said Burgess in an interview last week: health, housing and, of course, money. There is a well beaten path to their front door.
“In January, our office logged 396 calls from concerned seniors. High on their list of concerns was the high cost of housing and worries about things house upkeep, maintenance and repairs,” he said. “We try to find them tradespeople who will do good work and for a reasonable price.”
Money problems exist for many seniors. “I am fortunate personally because I have a good government pension but quite often you get situations where one spouse has worked while the other looked after the family, so they don’t have enough pension money to retire on.” Poor financial planning is often the culprit, he said. “Young people should start thinking about that kind of thing now and planning and saving for the future. We have a social worker on staff and we try to make suggestions where we can.” (There is an income tax clinic being held there from March 21 to April 1.)
The advocacy committee has looked at health care problems like seniors not understanding the Pharmacare program, Burgess said. “I go around and explain to people why they can’t compare their situation with other seniors. Why just because both have $1,400 in drug bills, it doesn’t mean they will both get the same back. It depends on their circumstances.” Another big push, he said, was for the GAT (geriatric assessment unit) consisting of 9,450 square feet with 10 patient beds, a specialist, nurses, physiotherapist and occupational therapist. “They put a $185,000 price tag on it and just I didn’t see how they could do it for that kind of money. So we wrote letters about it.”
In 2001, one third of the population was over 45. Some of the services provided in partnership with Northern Health Authority are seniors information line and Meals on Wheels, an Internet access computer support and a senior outreach program. The Prince George Council of Seniors members include the BC Government Retired Employees Association, Metis Elders Society, several seniors centres, the Federal Superannuates National Association and others. There are several pockets of funding for the COS, he said. But none of them deep enough apparently because the umbrella group is always struggling to provide service for seniors’ centres, groups and lobbyists, he said.
Member organizations include BC Government Retired Emplyees Association, Superannuates National Association, BC Retired Teachers’ Association and several seniors centres. The Prince George GCOS offices are located at 1-4-1270 Second Avenue (Quebec Street Entrance). Phone 564-5888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.