At 79, Ralph Sultan is still living in the North Shore home he used to share with his late wife Shirley, who passed away suddenly in 1999.
A woman comes in once a month to help with the cleaning, but Sultan says he knows there will come a time when he will have to downsize and leave more than 40 years of memories behind.
“At some time I’ve got to face up to leaving,” Sultan, the recently-appointed Minister of State for Seniors, told an audience of about 30 people at the Langley Seniors Centre last month.
The former Harvard professor, father of four and grandfather of four, was making a point about his own understanding of seniors’ issues.
He went on to describe how his increasingly frail sister Doris recently had to be transferred from her four-bedroom home with its sunken living room to a less physically challenging special care facility.
And he joked about his own occasional absent-mindedness as he nears his 80th birthday.
“I couldn’t find my keys the other day,” Sultan said.
“How did that happen?”
Sultan, the Liberal MLA for West Vancouver-Capilano, appeared at the centre with Langley MLA Mary Polak, the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, to speak about Liberal government initiatives designed to help improve the lives of seniors in British Columbia.
He talked about the “better at home” policy that provides at-home support for seniors.
“The government strategy is to keep them at home as long as possible,” Sultan said.
While some seniors like himself are able to consider downsizing to something like a townhouse at some point, that option isn’t available to all, Sultan noted.
“Housing of that sort is in very short supply and often very expensive,” Sultan said.
He defended the Liberal record on seniors’ issues, saying the government has created six times as many beds for seniors who require institutional care than the previous government.
The minister of state referred to plans to create a B.C. seniors’ advocate without giving many details other than saying the office would be created early in the new years.
And he promised he would function as an advocate himself.
“I intend to do my best to push these issues forward,” Sultan said.
Since his September 5 appointment to cabinet, Sultan has been talking about seniors issues at public appearances throughout the province.
Earlier this month, Sultan and Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett visited seniors’ facilities in the Elk Valley, attending the Fernie Seniors’ Centre, Sparwood’s Lilac Terrace and Elkford Community Centre.
— with files from Black Press