B.C.'s seniors advocate wants to see change in conversation around aging

Isobel MacKenzie says notions of a “silver tsunami” driving up health care costs are not as dire as presented in the media and on the contrary, seniors are some of the biggest contributors to the well-being of society.

'We persist in painting seniors as a ‘problem to be solved’ or a ‘cost curve to be bent’'

Isobel Mackenzie wrote an op-ed to change the conversation around aging and seniors' contributions to society. (CBC)

With Seniors Week in B.C. ending Saturday, B.C.'s seniors' advocate wants to see a change in the conversation surrounding older British Columbians.

Isobel MacKenzie has written an op-ed piece calling for a different perspective about seniors.

She says notions of a "silver tsunami" driving up health care costs are not as dire as presented in the media and on the contrary, seniors are some of the biggest contributors to the well-being of society.

"Eighty-two per cent of British Columbians are under the age of 65 and at the height of our shifting demographics (2031), three out of four of our citizens will still not be claiming old age pension or free ferry fares," MacKenize wrote.

"Yet, despite the reality of the numbers, we persist in painting seniors as a 'problem to be solved' or a 'cost curve to be bent.'"

MacKenzie says seniors are working more often and are prolific volunteers.

She is calling on British Columbians to "celebrate a group of people who bring wisdom, experience and lifetimes spent contributing to our province's coffers."

'Burden to society?'

MacKenzie told All Points West host Jason D'Souza she wrote the op-ed to change the focus of stories on seniors, which tend to zero in on their problems.

She says the numbers don't bear out the idea that seniors are a drain on health care and other systems and it's time for that idea to change.

"Really, would you like to be described as a burden to society?" MacKenize asked. "I don't think most of us would like to be described like that."

She says the idea of seniors declining into shells of their former selves is also mostly untrue. She says most people will live their entire lives in their own homes and it's a minority of people over age 85 — only about 20 per cent — who develop dementia.

MacKenzie says there are many things in the lives of seniors that could be better, but thinks framing their reality in a positive light can be helpful.

Listen to the full interview:

Isobel MacKenzie says notions of a "silver tsunami" driving up health care costs are not as dire as presented in the media and on the contrary, seniors are some of the biggest contributors to the well-being of society. 9:37

With files from CBC Radio One's All Points West