Se­niors need us to give — and they de­serve it

Older gen­er­a­tions built our so­ci­ety, Jason Lesage writes.

Vancouver Sun - - OPINION - Jason Lesage is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Queen’s Park Health­care Foun­da­tion. The foun­da­tion raises funds for equip­ment, fa­cil­ity en­hance­ments and ac­tiv­ity pro­gram­ming for Queen’s Park Care Cen­tre and Wil­liam Rudd House in New West­min­ster.

A cou­ple of months ago, James — not his real name — passed away. I would see him near my of­fice door, sit­ting in his wheel­chair and watch­ing peo­ple come and go in the front lobby at Queen’s Park Care Cen­tre, a res­i­den­tial care fa­cil­ity for se­niors in New West­min­ster.

I would say, “Good morn­ing, Boss! How are you?” We would have a chat about the weather. James was a proud man who seemed to have lived a rich life. How­ever, hardly any­one would come and visit. I was happy to spend time talk­ing with him, even if it was only a cou­ple of min­utes, be­cause I know it meant some­thing to him. “I need some new socks. Can you buy some for me?” James re­quested. “Sure. Let me see what I can do,” I replied. The next week, he was gone.

As the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for a small hos­pi­tal foun­da­tion tasked with rais­ing funds to pur­chase equip­ment and fund pro­grams that make life more com­fort­able for the res­i­dents at Queen’s Park Care Cen­tre (many are above 90 years of age), I’m hum­bled to serve those who are in, or close to, their last stage in life. Many have de­men­tia. For­tu­nately, there are a suite of ther­a­peu­tic ser­vices and a day pro­gram for se­niors still liv­ing at home that pro­vides spe­cial­ized care and gives care­givers, usu­ally a son or daugh­ter, a break.

The world of fundrais­ing is quite com­pet­i­tive — there are many ex­cel­lent not-for-profit or­ga­ni­za­tions in B.C. that make a world of dif­fer­ence to the peo­ple they serve. What they do is im­por­tant and their suc­cess is war­ranted. How­ever, I’ve had many meet­ings with in­di­vid­u­als and busi­nesses in the com­mu­nity, and it’s ap­par­ent that se­niors or­ga­ni­za­tions don’t re­ceive the same con­sid­er­a­tion as other char­i­ties. I’ve heard from more than one source that char­i­ta­ble giv­ing is shift­ing from se­niors to sec­tors such as arts and cul­ture, chil­dren and youth, and am­a­teur sports or­ga­ni­za­tions. Se­niors is­sues are just not sexy. There’s a bit of a ze­ro­sum game tak­ing place, and this isn’t right.

Here’s my chal­lenge: Who wants to be the Bell Canada for se­niors care?

The high stan­dard of liv­ing we en­joy to­day is built upon the hard work of to­day’s se­niors. Whether they were a cor­po­rate ex­ec­u­tive, worked in front-line re­tail, started their own busi­ness or cre­ated beau­ti­ful art, we owe them the care and com­fort they de­serve.

There have been many ar­ti­cles writ­ten lately ex­pound­ing the need for more se­niors care. There are now more peo­ple in Canada 65 years or older than 15 and un­der. Thought lead­ers in se­niors care are ask­ing if dif­fer­ent mod­els are needed to ac­com­mo­date this grey tsunami. It’s good to re-eval­u­ate how we take care of our se­niors. We also need to re-think how we sup­port se­niors care through phi­lan­thropy.

Not so long ago, men­tal health is­sues were some­what taboo. To­day, there are many or­ga­ni­za­tions that are avail­able to those who need help. Govern­ments are di­rect­ing more money to­ward re­sources and the cor­po­rate com­mu­nity has stepped up to the plate. This is a good thing. Se­niors char­i­ties to­day are where men­tal health char­i­ties were about 15 years ago.

So, here’s my chal­lenge to the busi­ness com­mu­nity. Who wants to be the Bell Canada for se­niors care? Be­cause there’s a huge niche to be filled, and it’s wide open.

As a so­ci­ety, we must give more con­sid­er­a­tion for se­niors care. Un­less you’re a se­nior your­self, or a son or daugh­ter tak­ing care of mom or dad, it’s just not on your radar, which is a shame be­cause we’re all go­ing to get there some­day. Think of it this way: Giv­ing to a se­niors char­ity to­day is an in­vest­ment in your fu­ture needs.

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