Silver Linings: The future for seniors in Whistler

All Whistler’s important Questions have been asked and answered as our faithful and beloved rag bows off the stage and fades into the annals.  

I can hardly stand it. It’s a sad day — more for me than for you. Seniors will get along without being cajoled, inspired and informed through the bi-weekly offerings of Silver Lining. The Question for me though is — how will I manage to be creative and productive without a deadline? I may have to take up smoking and soaps — spend long hours staring sullenly at back issues, re-living past glories, Questioning my worth.  

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Enough about me. What about us? One of the big Questions for Whistler seniors is, ‘What’s next?’ If you are a healthy junior or intermediate senior, you are playing and travelling and frolicking. Whistler has everything you need — great facilities, a huge variety of cultural and sports programs and the most beautiful natural setting anywhere.  

Eventually, God-willing, many of us will become senior seniors. At some point, the wheels will start to fall off and we’ll need more help. Of course, the ideal would be to flame out in a blaze of glory some time between 90 and 100, at the end of an epic day on the ski hill. On the off chance that doesn’t happen, what then?

And anyway, who cares? Isn’t Whistler a young people’s place? Young people — from ski bums and hippies to movers and shakers — came to this valley in the ‘60s and ‘70s and helped build a dream.

We stand on their shoulders. Many stayed, found gainful employment and raised families. Like most of us, those ski bums never dreamt they’d grow old. But they are. Along with the many others who have moved here to retire, they want to live out their lives in the town they helped build, that they know and love. Is it even possible?

Erika Durlacher cared for her husband Peter in Whistler until the end, not because there were adequate supports, but because she was determined, courageous and persistent. Vancouver Coastal Health provided excellent nursing and home care, but not enough.

Erika hired extra caregivers to fill in the gaps. Erika continues to be a passionate advocate for improved and expanded senior care in Whistler. She is an optimist. Looking into the crystal ball, Erika envisions various possibilities — adult daycare, a retirement community, an assisted living facility, perhaps even complex or extended care.  

She struggled, sometimes unsuccessfully, to get the support she needed to keep Peter at home. “I kept telling them how much they would save keeping a person at home. But it isn’t easy,” she said. “So many of the services stop in Squamish. Because it’s so hard to get support, once things start to go wrong, most seniors end up moving down the highway. But perhaps in the next five or 10 years, we may see developments in care so people can stay in Whistler from the cradle to the grave.”

On the other hand, there are realities that stand in the way of the kinds of supports Erika and many seniors envision. We are a small community. We have no hospital. We are a resort community with a relatively young population.

But evolution and change are inevitable. With political will, economic viability and grassroots advocacy from the ranks of an increasing number of seniors, we may reach a tipping point. Until then, try to stay upright! Over and out.

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