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Grey wave focus of government report

Encouraging local seniors to live healthy, active lives well into their golden years is one way the city can prepare for an expected increase in older citizens living in Alberta, says Coun. Len Bracko.

Encouraging local seniors to live healthy, active lives well into their golden years is one way the city can prepare for an expected increase in older citizens living in Alberta, says Coun. Len Bracko.

“Well, first of all, if you keep the seniors healthy, it costs less to the health care system and we have our trail system and we have Servus Place, which is a health centre as well as a recreation centre so that is key,” said Bracko.

He said the St. Albert Senior Citizens’ Club also plays an important role in keeping mentally and physically active.

Bracko made the comments one day after the province released its Aging Population Policy Framework, a report that aims to better prepare the province to meet the needs of its aging population through co-operation among government ministries and improving delivery of policies and programs that help seniors.

According to the report, the number of seniors in Alberta is expected to double by 2031 and, between 2011 and 2021, the percentage of Albertans aged 65 and older will increase to 15 per cent of the total population from 11 per cent.

Bracko noted the city has the Youville Home long-term care facility and the Rosedale complex, while the Citadel Care Centre has also opened to accommodate the growing senior population.

“One of the things we need to do is, before everyone is a senior, we need to look at the infrastructure needs of not just for the seniors but for all our residents and try and get that in place before too many of the seniors retire so it can be paid for or in the budget,” Bracko said.

“It’s going to have a big implication on taxes in the future, right now it’s already started. Some retire and don’t want any tax increases because they’re on fixed incomes so a lot of work has to be done. “

In a statement issued on Monday, Minister of Seniors and Community Support Mary Anne Jablonski, said the government needs to be co-ordinated when making decisions.

“That means we look at the big picture and what the rest of government and our partners are doing,” she said.

But critics say the principles included in the report are nothing new.

“What I don’t see here is much new, I don’t see a whole heck of a lot,” said Irene Martin, executive director of the Alberta Senior Citizens’ Housing Association (ASCHA).

“They talk about providing provincial leadership, well they’ve got a lot of leaders and everybody has a different piece of the pie and we know what that’s like, it’s very difficult,” said Martin, earlier this week.

Some of the policies in the report focus on ensuring that seniors are able to reside in a place that is appropriate for their circumstances, and making sure that seniors are engaged as full and welcome participants in their communities.

The report also acknowledges the important role that family members, communities and other governments play in caring for seniors.

“I’m more interested in the action that is going to result,” Martin said.

The framework also aims to support the development of sufficient affordable housing units for those seniors most in need.

St. Albert’s North Ridge Lodge has 48 affordable housing units for seniors, which are maintained by the Sturgeon Foundation. The organization oversees lodges in many of the communities that surround St. Albert and also provides in-house services such as meals and light housekeeping.

Executive director Marguerite Bosvik said the Sturgeon Foundation is hoping to build an additional 42 units in St. Albert in the near future.

“There is a need for more units, but there is also a need for some capital funding to regenerate the current older lodges that are out there. Part of the problem why we have vacancies is because the rooms are too small,” Bosvik said.

At the Chateau Sturgeon, in Legal, and at the Spruce View Manor, in Gibbons, this is especially true, she said.

“Potential clients come in and say, “I’m not moving in, the rooms are too small.”

Because the organization receives provincial funding based on the number of occupants, vacant rooms result in lost revenue.

“We still have to maintain those buildings, those rooms. They’re still heated, still have to be cleaned but they’re generating absolutely no revenue,” said Bosvik.

She suggested taking some of the money earmarked for new housing and using it to upgrade existing facilities.

“Maybe we don’t need quite so many units as we think we do,” she said.