Aging Together Abbotsford 2016 Conference – Isobel Mackenzie, Seniors Advocate

Aging Together Abbotsford 2016 is a conference for baby boomers and seniors. It took place over two days with educational workshops, expert speakers, as well as vendors and exhibitors that promote a full and healthy lifestyle for older adults. Presented by Abbotsford Community Services (, the conference was well attended with over 130 registrants who were engaged fully in the sessions, workshops and ongoing conversations that ensued.

Dan Levitt, Executive Director of Tabor Village and adjunct professor of Gerontology at SFU emceed the two day event. He said that he “hoped the next 2 days would help all of the participants grow in wisdom and although growing old may be a challenging chapter in life, it will also be a valuable and meaningful time in your life”. Dan’s engaging sense of humor and knowledge of the field of gerontology set the tone for the two days of information, networking and fun.

Greetings were brought to the conference by Mayor Henry Braun who affirmed Abbotsford as an Age-Friendly community with desire and initiative to continue providing services for seniors.

Before introducing Isobel Mackenzie, Seniors Advocate, BC, Dan shared Henry Fredrick Amil’s powerful quote, “To know how to grow old is the master work of wisdom and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.”

Isobel Mackenzie, Seniors Advocate, BC – Keynote Address

Isobel Mackenzie, Seniors Advocate, BC addressed the crowded room mixed with seniors, professionals, pastors and chaplains. With more than 20 years of experience working with seniors, Isobel MacKenzie brings a thorough, evidence-based, researched method to her work in advocating for seniors in British Columbia. Just prior to becoming the Seniors Advocate, Isobel was leading BC’s largest non-profit agency, serving over 6,000 seniors.

Isobel debunked a number of myths in her keynote address, such as the idea that seniors are a burden – that there is a great silver tsunami coming that will come by surprise and wash over British Columbia devastating everything in its path. She addressed the myth that all seniors are rich, stating the statistic that at age 65 over half the people are living on an income of $24,000 or less. There are 54,000 seniors in British Columbia who are living only on Old age Pension and Guaranteed Income Supplement, a sum of $16,800 per year.

Isobel shared how well-meaning professionals are trained to make people’s lives as risk-free as possible and yet, it’s time to allow individual seniors to live at risk as they choose.

Another myth addressed by the Seniors Advocate was the idea that you will get dementia if you live to be elderly. Statistics show that four out of five people over 85 do not have dementia. An unintended consequence of creating awareness of Alzheimer’s for research dollars is that everyone fears that they will get dementia.

What about resident-on-resident aggression within residential care homes? For the first time, there is a benchmark statistic collected by the Seniors Advocate office. This says that between 425 and 550 reported cases resulted in harm in residential care. Although our aim is to have no aggression, this rate of aggression needs to be understood in the context of the 27,000 residents in British Columbia.

What about the myth that all elderly people will lose their driver’s license? Over 97% of seniors over 80 years old will pass the DMER test and not be subject to the DriveABLE test. From there forward, they will be able to renew their license.

The Seniors Advocate also shared that they are collecting statistics through the Senior Abuse and Information Phone Line as to how many seniors are being abused. As the benchmark numbers are being developed, Isobel noted that many of the reports of abuse were more than five years old, indicating an under-reporting of abuse incidents.

Her work ahead will include a Resident on Resident Aggression Review, Home Support Review and a Pharmacare Review.

Conference workshops at the Aging Together Abbotsford 2016 Conference ranged from Advance Care Planning; Financial and Estate Planning; Successful Aging; Privileges and Responsibilities of Driving; Intimacy Through the Years: Exploring Sex as we get Older; Travel Tips; Family and Friend Caregiver Tips; Heads up for a Healthy Brain; Healthy Smoothies and Laughter Yoga.