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Vernon  

Raising profile for seniors

Vernon city councillor Juliette Cunningham has a reputation for standing up for the little guy.

Cunningham has been a part of many committees and task forces over the years; so, it comes as no surprise that she has offered her services to yet another. 

However, this time the cause hits a little closer to home.

Monday Cunningham threw her hat into the ring and said she would like to join in raising the profile for senior's services initiative.

As part of a task force, Cunningham and others would look into a range of issues facing the North Okanagan and Shuswap senior community.

Cunningham is concerned with the viability for many of the seniors in the community to stay in their homes. 

Especially for those that don't have family in the area, Cunningham says we don't have adequate supports and services to allow that to happen. 

"I've just seen so many struggles with that level of independence." 

In the case of Cunningham's mother, she had the support of a large family but even at that, the home supports provided by Interior Health are limited. Eventually, Cunningham had to move her mother into residential care. 

"There used to be a time where they could come and help to prepare meals a do some cleaning, all of those things that help a senior to live independently in their home, but that has changed over the years."

Cunningham believes those changes have created a burden on residential care and assisted living. 

"Seniors are forced to move into these accommodations probably sooner than a lot of them want to."

Cunningham believes that if the structure and supports were in place, many seniors would be able to stay in their homes longer.

"For me, I'm just seeing more and more challenges for seniors in terms of affordable housing and food security."

The Upper Room Mission has reported seeing an increase in the number of seniors coming to them for help. 
 
"I realize it is costly, but we have to take care of our seniors," says Cunningham. "First, identify the issues then put a task force or action team together."

Seniors are not typically the face of the affordable housing crisis in Vernon, but the reality is there are some of the community's most vulnerable.

"It is the whole spectrum of needs people have it is healthcare, it is housing, it is food security the cost of all of those things are rising all the time and you have seniors that are on a very limited income that can't absorb those increases."

"I often see seniors who don't have a voice and don't have advocates. I see it every day when I go visit my mom. I think it is just important at city council we can be those advocates with those other levels of governments." 

Cunningham adds, "most of us have a soft spot for seniors and sometimes they are not in a position to have a strong voice."



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