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COVID-19: Province provides $50M to bolster seniors’ supports

British Columbia Senior's Advocate Isobel Mackenzie was in Prince George attending a seniors housing symposium. Bill Phillips photo
British Columbia Senior’s Advocate Isobel Mackenzie

As part of British Columbia’s emergency novel coronavirus (COVID-19) response plan, the province is providing the United Way of the Lower Mainland with $50 million to bolster seniors’ supports at community service agencies throughout British Columbia.

This will help address immediate needs associated with the impact of COVID-19, so seniors get the support they need to stay safe at home.

The supports are the outcome of work conducted by an all-party COVID-19 Seniors Working Group co-chaired by Isobel Mackenzie, B.C.’s seniors advocate, and the ministry. Members of the working group are Ronna-Rae Leonard, MLA for Courtenay-Comox; Janet Routledge, MLA for Burnaby North; Shirley Bond, MLA for Prince George-Valemount; John Yap, MLA for Richmond-Steveston; and Sonia Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley.

“This is a trying time for all of us, but especially for seniors across B.C.,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “I am so proud and appreciative of the work that the seniors advocate and all members of the Seniors Working Group have done to build a plan for safely supporting seniors at home and in community through the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The province is funding the expansion of bc211, a province-wide information and referral service, to match seniors whose support network has been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak with volunteers.

Starting today, bc211 will be available to residents of B.C.’s North and Interior, in addition to the rest of B.C., and provide extended hours of service. This service will take calls from people who would like to volunteer to help seniors in their community with basic needs, including grocery shopping and pharmacy drop-offs and check-ins.

“Seniors in B.C. are especially vulnerable to the impact COVID-19 will have on their health and their ability to stay connected with others,” Mackenzie said. “The outpouring of calls from people who want to help our seniors is inspiring, and using bc211 to match British Columbians who want to help, with seniors who need some help to stay connected and meet basic needs, is a perfect match.”

The funding provided to the United Way of the Lower Mainland will address immediate needs associated with the impact of COVID-19, as well as maintain and expand some existing programs.

“We’re excited to be collaborating with bc211 and the Ministry of Health to deliver these essential supports to seniors,” said Michael McKnight, president and CEO, United Way of the Lower Mainland. “It is important that we support our most vulnerable citizens during this challenging time with local communities and community agencies being essential to these efforts. If you are a senior in need of support, we urge you to reach out.”

Improving access to local support for seniors includes expanding current services and addressing both geographic and capacity gaps, to better serve seniors locally during this crucial time.

Quick Facts:

* In 2019, 20% of B.C.’s population was 65 years of age or older. In 15 years, this percentage is expected to rise to 25%.

* The information and referral service will gather information and share it with participating local community agencies that will match seniors and volunteers who live in the same community.

* The phone service will be available seven days a week during daytime hours and is free.

Learn More:

To learn more about bc211, visit:

To learn more about United Way Better at Home Program, visit:

Seniors and people who want to volunteer and who are well can call bc211 or visit:

To learn more about the benefits of volunteering, visit:

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