Seniors in rural B.C. have poorer access to health care, housing: report

A new report shows that seniors living in rural parts of B.C. are experiencing a lack of resources and support.

The Office of the Seniors Advocate says individuals ages 65 or above who live in rural areas have poorer access to health care, lower average incomes and fewer options when it comes to long-term care or affordable housing.

“Seniors everywhere experience difficulties related to aging but as I’ve travelled the province and examined the data, it’s clear that people who live far from urban centres face even greater obstacles because they have fewer resources to support them,” said Isobel Mackenzie, BC Seniors Advocate.

The report also indicates rural parts of the province have a proportionately higher and faster growing population of seniors, and with fewer resources and services available when compared to seniors who live in urban areas.

“We face a geographical challenge where 86 per cent of our population is concentrated in dense urban cores on 4 per cent of our land mass,” said Mackenzie.

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“The vastness or rural B.C. makes accessing supports by aging seniors more difficult because critical services are spread over a large, sparsely populated area.”


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Seniors make up 25 per cent of B.C.’s rural population, compared to urban B.C. where seniors are 19 per cent of the population. It is expected that by 2032, seniors will be 29 per cent of the province’s rural population, compared to 21 per cent in urban B.C.


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The report also found that 17 per cent of rural seniors do not have a family doctor or nurse practitioner, compared to 13 per cent of urban seniors.

“While I am inspired and heartened by the compassionate, community minded nature of people who live in rural B.C., it is clear they need more support,” said Mackenzie.

“There needs to be a more cohesive plan developed that looks across all domains of healthy aging, housing, transportation, income, health care and community supports. We must ensure that seniors, regardless of whether they live in rural or urban B.C., receive equitable levels of support to allow them to age well in their home communities.”

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The advocate made seven recommendations in the report to help tackle these issues among rural seniors in the province.

  • Develop and Implement a Rural Seniors Housing Strategy.
  • Develop and Implement a Rural Health Human Resource Strategy.
  • Develop and Implement Rural Seniors Home and Community Care Strategy.
  • Develop and Implement a Provincial Long-Term Care and Assisted Living Plan based on equity throughout the province.
  • Develop and Implement a Provincial Rural Transportation Strategy.
  • Improve and Better Promote the Provincial Travel Assistance Program and Hope Air.
  • Increase Rural Representation in Government through the creation of a Ministry or Minister of State for Rural B.C.

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