I was very moved to read Art Kube's letter (Plan with seniors, not for them, In My Opinion, The Record, June 8) in which he writes: "Seniors are an asset, not a liability, to society" and that the driving force of our approach should be "to help seniors stay active, healthy and independent."
As a health-care advocate and seniors' advocate for many years, and as a community volunteer, I agree with Mr. Kube completely when he says we presently have a hodge-podge of approaches when what we really need is a "comprehensive coordinated approach." And I also believe that we can learn a great deal from other countries that face similar challenges.
One model that is definitely worth examining is the Danish model of integrated community care services for seniors - a model in which home sup-port services, home nursing, outreach programs, assisting living, long-term care and hospital care are effectively coordinated. Seniors have access to a wide variety of home support services according to each person's specific and changing needs - which are continually assessed by a team of health-care and service providers.
Yes, this does involve greater investment in home support, home nursing and outreach programs than we make here in B.C. But Danes with whom I have spoken, as well as health policy experts and seniors' advocates in B.C. and across Canada, all agree that it is an investment well worth making. Why?
First of all, these programs really do allow seniors to live independently longer and enjoy a better quality of life. Secondly, such programs are critical to preventive health care, that is, to not simply treating illness and disease - but working actively to prevent them. And, thirdly, and very importantly, they are cost-effective.
I will be visiting Denmark later this month for a family reunion. (Yes, I must confess at this point that I was indeed born in the country of which I speak!) And I plan to spend some time in Denmark learning first-hand about its system of "integrated community care."
I know how positive my relatives are about the ongoing and critically important support that's been provided to their aging parents - and how important those supports are to the family as a whole. But I also want to take the opportunity to meet personally with health-care organizations and health-care providers to understand better how these programs actually work.
Because, as Art Kube said so eloquently in his letter, seniors are "still alive, still as active as (they) can be, still anxious to build a better province." And we should treat them as an asset - not a liability. It's the very least that they deserve!
Judy Darcy, NDP candidate, New Westminster