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Retiring seniors advocate praises Langley society’s resilience after flood

Isobel Mackenzie also talked about seniors issues around B.C.
B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie spoke at the Langley Senior Resources Society centre on Monday, Feb. 5. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Isobel Mackenzie, B.C.’s first seniors advocate, joked that unlike the Rolling Stones, she won’t be back for another ‘farewell tour’ after her retirement this spring.

After a decade as a voice for B.C.’s over-65s, Mackenzie was at the Langley Senior Resources Centre on Tuesday, to speak to a packed hall about the state of seniors in the province.

Her talk ranged over a number of issues for seniors, but began with the raw numbers. As of the last census, B.C. had five million people, and a million of those, a full fifth, were seniors over the age of 65.

Those numbers varied across B.C.

There are more seniors on Vancouver Island, and fewer in the north.

A report due out next week on rural seniors includes the finding that 25 per cent of B.C.’s rural population is aged 65 and up, Mackenzie said.

While the rural population is relatively small, the number of seniors within it is growing at a faster rate than the rate of seniors overall, she said.

She noted that 95 per cent of all seniors live independently, including 77 per cent of those who are aged 85 and older.

Out of all seniors, 14 per cent are still employed, and 41 per cent are volunteers.

Mackenzie noted that were it not for the unofficial work of seniors, as volunteers and caregivers, the province would grind to a halt in short order.

Seniors continue to have a great deal of independence, with 88 per cent having drivers licenses, including 58 per cent of those aged 85 and older.

She noted that the ongoing trend of people living longer, healthier lives was likely to lead to the retirement age being raised at some point in the future.

It isn’t just that people are receiving Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security and other benefits for longer, Mackenzie said. It’s also that with increased education necessary for most jobs, people are starting their working lives later than they did a generation or two ago. That gives them less time to save and build their own financial security.

Mackenzie also mentioned the recent crisis that the centre, its staff, volunteers, and board have been managing – a flood caused by a burst pipe during January’s cold snap.

“Not only did you not close, you rose to the challenge,” Mackenzie said.

She noted that on her way in, she had passed seniors playing bridge and ping pong, and that the centre was still extremely busy, with the parking lot full and signs warning people they’d have to park across the street.

“It is very clear that Langley is a community that supports its people,” she said.

Mackenzie was welcomed by the head of the Langley Senior Resources Society board, Loretta Solomon.

Solomon noted how influential Mackenzie has been on discussions about seniors issues in B.C., to the point that it’s common to hear “Isobel Mackenzie says…” during such talks.

Mackenzie announced her retirement from the position last year. Her term as B.C. seniors advocate finishes in March.

READ MORE: Fierce advocate set to retire as the voice for B.C. seniors after 9 years on the job

Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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