In November and December of 2014, the Office of the Seniors Advocate in conjunction with HealthLinkBC and BC Stats, developed and conducted a survey asking British Columbia seniors a series of questions on a range of issues. We wanted to know about seniors’ housing situations. We asked them about how much knowledge they have about the services and supports in place to assist them as they age. We were curious about their mobility and transportation options in their communities. Finally we wanted to find out more about their current health status
There are several financial programs that seniors can access in British Columbia that can help them.
For seniors who rent, a provincial grant called SAFER (Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters) helps make rents affordable for those with low to moderate incomes by providing monthly cash payments to eligible B.C. seniors.
Three quarters of seniors who participated in the survey were aware of the federal Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) for low-income seniors, and approximately one in five of those respondents received the supplement. A single senior qualifies for GIS if they receive Old Age Security (OAS) and their income is less than $17,088 per year. A single senior’s GIS allowance per month is $764.40. A couple qualifies for GIS allowance if they receive OAS and if they have an income of less than $31,584. They receive $1013.72 total per month.
Medical Services Plan (MSP) premium assistance and Fair Pharmacare program are income-based provincial programs providing assistance with medical costs to eligible low-income individuals and families. Each requires application to or registration with the program.
Finally, questions in the survey focused on their health benefits and coverage for things like dental care, vision aids, and hearing aids. Overall, about half of the respondents indicated they had such medical coverage, with similar rates among younger and older seniors and throughout the five health authorities. However, lower-income seniors were less likely to enjoy such health plan benefits; while approximately 62 per cent of higher-income seniors had extended health benefit plans, that proportion dropped to just 35 per cent in the lowest income bracket.
Look for more information from the Senior’s Advocate Office in the May Newsletter.