Seniors make up a large part of who we are as a province and we want to give them the best supports possible. At the same time, we want to ensure we are creating a bright future for our grandchildren.
Times certainly have changed and will continue to do so. In 20 years, our province’s seniors’ population will more than double from 676,000 to more that 1.3 million. That’s 23% of our population. How do we plan today to ensure we are able to keep pace with this substantial growth?
This year alone, the provincial government expects to spend more than $2.44 billion on home and community care for seniors. In less than 10 years, we’ve built more than 6,327 new residential care beds, assisted living and supportive housing units, including 13,780 renovations. We’ve also made great strides to ensure those who require care are able to get it faster. In 2001, an individual would have waited a year for residential care and today wait times are less than 90 days.
In addition to ensuring our seniors are properly cared for in their later years, we’ve established ActNow community parks in 18 communities, designed to help seniors stay mobile, physically active and healthy.
To help alleviate any financial pressures seniors may face as they continue to live in their own homes, we’ve taken several measures. We have increased the Home Owner Grant and doubled the rent subsidy program for low income seniors.
In the Vernon-Monashee area, there has been a significant investment in supportive seniors’ housing. Through federal and provincial government cooperation , we are seeing the construction of Monashee Place, a 16-unit modular housing development for low-income seniors and individuals with disabilities. The Province has also built 14 new units in Lumby on Glencaird Street. Similarly, through Independent Living BC, Vernon has seen 38 assisted living units at Creekside Landing, a newly renovated campus of care for seniors. These beautiful new homes will allow seniors to stay in their familiar communities, close to their families and friends who are their life support units.
It’s incredibly important to our seniors’ health and well-being to keep them close to their friends and family. That’s why the Province has continued to build on our $180 million investment in the Vernon Jubliee Hospital. Improvements include a new emergency department and operating rooms, new intensive care unit, new acute care beds and a new maternity and pediatrics ward. All of these new facilities will keep families together during times of care and decrease the number of patients who will need to travel to other hospitals for treatment and reduce unnecessary stress.
All of these projects, whether it is the new patient care tower at Vernon Jubilee Hospital or new housing for seniors, have significant implications for our grandchildren’s generation. By investing in our local infrastructure, we are creating jobs for young people in our community. They do not have the need to pack up and leave our towns, when they can easily find good paying supportive jobs right here at home.
Our grandchildren’s schools are vibrant community hubs, which is why the Province has invested more than $55 million on the replacements of both Vernon Secondary School and Coldstream Elementary School. Every student deserves to learn in a safe and engaging facility to ensure they are getting the most out of their educational experience.
We are putting particular emphasis on our early learners in order to ensure the next generation gets the best start possible. In the Vernon School District alone, we’ve opened four StrongStart centres in Harwood Elementary, Alexis Park Elementary, Okanagan Landing Elementary and Mission Hill Elementary. This early learning program provides school-based early learning services for adults and their young children, from birth to age five, at no cost to families. Children have access to high-quality learning environments and benefit from social interactions, while the adults who accompany them learn new ways to support learning, both at the program and at home.
For a child’s next learning step, by September of next year, full-day kindergarten will be available to five-year-olds across the province. Research shows that a high quality kindergarten program has long-term benefits for children’s academic and social skills and helps them to succeed in school and in life. Full day kindergarten is another step towards building a strong foundation for lifelong learning, in a nurturing, play-based environment.
The Province will continue to prioritize investments in senior’s housing and in-home supports because they deserve as many options as possible to help them live independent and fulfilling lives. A large part of a senior’s fulfilled life is ensuring their grandchildren are well cared for. We will continue to ensure B.C.’s economic climate continues to keep families together.