Navigating retirement living in BC

Many seniors come to British Columbia from across Canada, drawn by its milder winters and breath-taking scenery. What they may not be familiar with is BC’s structure of senior care and how to navigate its health care system and budget appropriately. Our care model features three tiers of senior living, two of which are supported by the BC government through the local Health Authorities.

Independent Living: As the name implies, this is for seniors that require little to no assistance in their daily lives. It includes retirees that live independently in their own home, as well as retirees that reside in a retirement home which offers services such as meal preparation, light housekeeping, laundry services, and social events. This is often how we envision the “golden years” of retirement - with time to pursue interests, hobbies, and social engagements.

Assisted Living: As we age, we may need additional assistance on a regular basis in our daily lives. These can be services such as: help with bathing and getting dressed, preparing food, reminders to take medication, and possibly weekly housekeeping and/or laundry. The BC government provides a limited number of homes in Assisted Living facilities which provide this level of care. These services are offered on an income-tested basis at 70% of after-tax income, to a maximum of $3,530 per month. In 2023, the minimum charge for these services is $1,093.50 for a single person and $1,665.60 for a couple.

Aging in Place: This is another option for Assisted Living. Most seniors will follow this hybrid care model, where Independent Living is converted to Assisted Living by sending support services directly into retirees’ current homes. Health care professional visits are on a scheduled basis, providing care as needed. Government services are income-tested through a formula and may be free for low income or disabled seniors. These services are offered for a lower cost and are performed within a 2–3 hours window of the requested time. If a senior prefers to have a shorter window for their appointment time, private companies offering the same services can be hired; however, it is usually at a higher cost. Private companies may also offer non-medical-related services, such as meal preparation, housekeeping, and companionship.

Aging in Place is the BC government’s preferred model of care for Assisted Living and used to meet the needs of most retirees. It is more cost effective to send services into a senior’s home on a scheduled basis, than to house seniors full time in a government facility. As well, most independent seniors choose to remain in their own homes for as long as possible, retaining a higher level of autonomy and staying close to established networks of family, friends, and neighbourhood resources. 

Long-Term Care: This is the highest level of care offered to seniors by the BC government. It offers around the clock care in a dedicated facility and is intended for seniors that either have complex physical health care needs that require frequent or constant monitoring, or who are suffering from diminished mental capacity. This service is also income-tested and will cost 80% of after-tax income, up to a maximum of $3,974.10 per month.

To qualify for BC government services, seniors must contact their local home and community care office through their local Health Authority. Health care professionals, such as doctors, nurses, pharmacists, or social workers, can also make a referral on their behalf. A health care professional will contact the applicant to conduct an assessment to determine eligibility for services. It is important to remember that BC government services are income-tested. With proper tax and financial planning, care costs can usually be reduced.


Who to contact by Health Authority:

Fraser Health – contact Home Health Service Line at 1-855-412-2121 (7 days a week, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.) to request an assessment.

Interior Health – contact your local Home and Community Care office.

Island Health – contact your Community Access Centre.

Northern Health – contact the Home Health / Community Services office nearest you.

Vancouver Coastal Health – call your local Home and Community Care access line

  • North Shore (North Vancouver, West Vancouver): (604) 983-6700
  • Richmond: (604) 675-3644
  • Vancouver: (604) 263-7377