By Cavelle Layes

A Kamloops advocacy group has received gratitude and support after giving local seniors a voice.

The Interior B.C. Council on Aging Society continues to set its goals high and are working towards political action.

Isabelle Allen, a chair and one of the original founders, said the Council on Aging now has eight board members and many new members joining.

Allen said they are happy to be gaining numbers, noting each member comes from a different background and provides unique insight.

The Council on Aging was formed in March of 2014 when a group of Kamloops locals decided there was a need for a clear voice for seniors.

One of the biggest steps forward has been consultations that began last year with mini testing groups.

The Council on Aging was able to get a student from TRU, trained in research methods, to conduct consultations which were designed to find out what issues Kamloops seniors really face.

The student then compiled all of the data into a report.

Allen explains the report is not considered to be scientific, as certain criteria are needed in order to meet this classification and the costs are higher.

The report did help the Council on Aging to better understand what concerns local seniors have and where they would like to see support.

“We were surprised to get such a variety of issues,” Allen said, but noted that as a whole, the core issues brought up were anticipated.

One of the big issues was that many seniors outlive their doctors, and it can be hard to find a new one.

Allen also noted many of those involved in the consultation were not aware a nurse practitioner could do many things a doctor can.

She explained when surgeries are needed, a nurse practitioner can make recommendations to doctors, but for minor ailments, a nurse practitioner can handle the job. Some will also make house calls.

Allen said the Council on Aging has applied for funding to be able to offer this sort of consultation on a larger scale, and with more scientific test results.

The Council on Aging intends to reach out to more rural areas such as Chase and include them in the test results down the road.

The Council on Aging members believe seniors in rural areas may offer their own set of concerns that should also be addressed.

The improved tests would ensure there is enough information included to consider them valid, and the findings would be presented at the Seniors Symposium in June.

“People want to know what the consultations found out and what can be done,” Allen said, noting the consultations have drawn a lot of interest.

In fact, she said, the last Seniors Symposium drew out a large crowd interested in the results of the report.

“The seniors want the testing to be valuable and meaningful,” Allen said.

“They want to see they are valued and people are listening to what they want. What they really want, not just what is assumed they need.”

“Sometimes the assumptions aren’t what they need, but the seniors accept it,” Allen said.

She explained that in some situations, government pushes for funding for seniors care homes, because they believe this is what is wanted by the senior community. However, many just want to be able to access the items required to help them continue to live in their own homes.

The testing also highlighted some other areas of concern Allen said — issues that seem to slip through the cracks.

“It is hard for instance, for low-income women who didn’t work outside of the home and don’t have a pension,” she said.

“These women can’t find housing.” This is an issue that often comes up, as many of the women were housewives and their husbands have since passed, leaving them with nothing.

The Council on Aging hopes to get a number of TRU students to help them conduct further, more detailed testing in the near future.

“We have experts on our Council, but not the type that can make the testing valuable and scientific,” she explained.

If the Council on Aging could produce a scientific study, the results could be presented to the government, and really be used to help give local seniors a voice.

Since its formation, the Council on Aging has been asked to reply to many different types of policies on behalf of local seniors, and speak to the ministry on the subjects.

While the Council on Aging does not offer services to seniors, the society targets policies on their behalf.

“We don’t pretend to represent everyone,” Allen said, “but most on the board are seniors and have experience.”

“We hope that it is going to open windows that haven’t been open before,” she said.

“We want to change the image people have of our seniors. They are not just people in need, they can be resourceful, they have been out in the world working and have all kinds of skills.”

The Interior B.C. Council on Aging Society is always listening to feedback from the community and is still accepting new members.