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Seniors' champion receives provincial award

St. Albert Seniors Association executive director Linda Ensley received the 2022 Minister's Seniors Service Award
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Linda Ensley, executive director of St. Albert Seniors Association, is a recipient of the 2022 Minister's Seniors Service Award. Her body of work included setting up the Fraud Alert website to protect seniors from scammers. ANNA BOROWIECKI/St. Albert Gazette

We direct more than a few choice words at predators that exploit seniors and steal their hard-earned savings. Con-artists scam seniors out of hundreds of millions annually and police services are seeing an increase in elder fraud. 

Sturgeon County’s Linda F. Ensley did more than wring her hands about injustices perpetrated upon the elderly. She played a pivotal role organizing Senior Fraud Alert, an easily accessible information website detailing every known scam used to defraud seniors.  

Ensley, who is currently the executive director of St. Albert Seniors Association, was named one of four recipients of the 2022 Minister’s Seniors Service Award in the individual category for her work. This provincial award honours individuals who take on leadership roles that vastly improve senior services. 

“I felt like I didn’t deserve it. That fraud program – I wrote the grant but 102 seniors from across the province volunteered their time. And there was one from British Columbia and one from Saskatchewan. All agreed to read content for seniors by seniors. They put in hundreds of hours on Zoom,” said Ensley who was the executive director at Strathcona Place Seniors Centre (SPSC) during the project.  

Lise Ruthardt, a Sturgeon County resident and SPSC board member who nominated Ensley for the award, counters the executive director’s humble words. 

“She deserves to be recognized. She’s a very hard worker and she truly cares about seniors. She says 102 seniors put the project together, but she was the leader. She listened to their issues around fraud and recognized what needed to be done. She took the initiative and figured out ways to do it. She solicited partners, organized focus groups. It wouldn’t have been possible without her. She’s a true leader, a champion for seniors.” 

Raised in Cedar Ridge, Colorado, Ensley’s generous personality and comfort level with seniors was molded through the people she met in a small town ringed 360 degrees by mountains. 

“My parents were older when I was born. We were surrounded by older people. When you live in a small community, everyone goes to the weddings. Everyone goes to the funerals of people you know and you hear these wonderful stories,” Ensley said. 

She describes an old man named George who was given a large piece of flint by an Indigenous Chief, a token of respect and friendship offered to few people. 

“When I was 17 and ready to go off to England, he said to me, ‘You take this piece of flint. I never want you to forget where you came from.’ If we don’t care for and honour our seniors and their stories, we miss a piece of what makes us so rich and diverse. Those stories are part of who we are. To ignore seniors or discredit them is such a shame.” 

After living in England for a few years, Ensley returned to the States, obtained an MBA in marketing and was employed at General Electric’s (GE) Boulder, Colorado office. After working at the mega corporation’s offices for seven years, Ensley received a promotion and moved to Edmonton to work for GE Franchuk, a part supplier for turbines and large machinery. What appeared to be a promising career ended after the company was divided. 

Refocusing priorities, Ensley shifted from a conglomerate corporate career to a more personal, philanthropic job in funding development at La Leche League, a breast-feeding support group for mothers. By 2017, the Strathcona Place Seniors Centre recruited Ensley as executive director. Her Internet digital toolkit was the main draw. 

“They wanted to update their digital centre and I was able to get all the pieces together to support the seniors,” she said adding that grant writing was a big part of the job. 

But it was the fraud website that cemented Ensley’s reputation. She formed the YEG Alliance, a cooperative partnership between SPSC, West End Seniors, Chinese Seniors Association, Edmonton Seniors Centre, Drive Happiness and the Edmonton Police Department. St. Albert Seniors Association has since joined, and the partnership has rebranded as Alberta Seniors Alliance. 

Once the grant money came through, Ensley hired a web developer and writers who produced copy with trendy digital jargon many seniors did not understand. She cites the example of a partially deaf 80-year-old woman who attended a meeting and mistakenly heard the speaker say “urinal” instead of URL. 

“The first draft didn’t meet the needs of the seniors, so we rewrote everything. One hundred and two seniors stepped up and said, ‘we’ll help.’ And they did. We broke them up into groups. They provided feedback and tested things. We did videos and they memorized dialogue and acted in scenes.” 

“I was blown away by the amount of talent they put together to benefit those around them. Get a group of seniors together and nothing stops them. I learned so much from them.” 

The anti-fraud website is a free resource available to the public. It shows seniors how to detect con games and protect themselves from imposters. It lists 46 current scams under five major headings ranging from health and safety, relationship and lifestyle, Internet, banking and government fraud. 

To view the website’s information and videos visit www.seniorfraudalert.ca.   


Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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