Opinion: Advocacy groups urge governments to step up for seniors

Decreasing services for the elderly and disabled is a life and death matter, advocates warn

Credit: iStock/Lara Belova

Decreasing services like Greyhound is a life and death matter, advocates warn

Advocates from a multitude of organizations across Canada are gravely concerned about decreasing services for elderly consumers. In light of Greyhound’s recent announcement that it will cancel almost all routes in British Columbia, advocates have joined together to implore companies to consider the broader impacts of their business decisions.

Surrey alone is home to almost 10 percent of B.C.’s senior citizens. The advocates believe that because of Canada’s aging population, increasing the number of accessible services now should be one of the top priorities for all levels of government.

“For many at-risk groups, it’s a matter of life and death,” says Amaanali Fazal, advocate for the vulnerable with organizations like Aging 2.0 Vancouver. “Services like Greyhound buses allow the sight-impaired and elderly to experience a higher quality of life. We’ve already seen a concerning decrease in services that are frequently used by these vulnerable groups at a time we want to see inclusive and accessible services for all. Service cancellations, like Telus’s text-to-landline services in 2016, often leave many having to scramble to change their service provider or face being cut off from the world.”

“Essential for the success of functioning civil societies is the inclusion of all its citizens, in particular our seniors,” notes Amir Hemani, COO of Berwick Retirement Communities. “The well-being of seniors is directly connected to their ability to remain engaged and contributing within the communities they live in,” he explains. “Services like text-to-landline maintain that connection for seniors and others living with physical disabilities who are unable to utilize mainstream forms of communication.”

The text-to-landline service has been offered since the early 2000s by Canada’s top carriers. Rogers and Bell still offer the service. Advocates say that the text-to-landline service is crucial for the marginalized groups and fear that if the service were to disappear many disabled people would be cut off from the outside world, which has the potential to put lives in danger.

“Companies like Rogers and Bell should be recognized and applauded for their vital support in providing TTL service to our seniors,” observes Amir Hemani. “While the service may not be as robust as their other product lines, it is a home run for building community goodwill, which is an essential part of their business model, and consumers should reward them for it.”

The advocacy group applauds the federal government for announcing federal accessibility legislation and Ontario’s newly elected Ford government for appointing a cabinet minister specifically to oversee issues related to accessibility for disabled and elderly. They would love to see B.C.’s coalition government assign a cabinet minister to deal with accessibility issues.

“Look at TransLink as an example,” says Amaanali Fazal. “How can you implement transit gates but not think ahead to install RFID [radio frequency identification] readers for disabled riders?” He adds, “All we’re asking for is for companies to stop sacrificing people in the name of profit. Instead build for the people, and I mean all the people, and the profit will be there long into the future.”

Originally from London, England, Reece Mack is the owner of the digital marketing agency Rebel Experiential Marketing, based in Metro Vancouver. He is passionate about community and bringing awareness to important issues. His work has been published in Forbes, the Province, Vancouver Sun and Realtor.com