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Feeling let down

Seniors enjoy their lifestyle, but fear the government's lack of action on housing means few other retirees will be able to enjoy it

Chris Puglia
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 12/02) - Ten years ago, Esther Braden decided to live out the rest of her years in Yellowknife.

Braden moved to Yellowknife in 1964 with a growing family. Hailing from Saskatchewan, she and her family decided to make Yellowknife their home. "It was a good move," she recalls.

NNSL photo

Esther Braden enjoys her life at Aven Court. It provides her with all the comforts of home and the chance to maintain one of her hobbies, flower gardening. - Chris Puglia/NNSL photos

In 1988, Braden and her husband retired. During the months between May and October, the couple lived in a cottage outside of Yellowknife.

In the winter months the couple escaped the arctic winter to reside in Abbotsford, B.C.

"It was a great arrangement to get away from the extreme cold in the winter," said Braden.

In 1993, Braden's husband became ill. At that time Aven Court was under construction and it was felt by the couple that they would do well to live in such a facility.

Living in the court would allow the couple to live independently while still having access to the assistance they would need.

"We liked the idea of Aven Court because all the people who lived here were old friends," said Braden. "So we got our name on the list and we were accepted."

Aven Court had a host of appealing advantages. "There are no stairs, this was very important because my husband, he had difficulty walking," says Braden.

As well, the carpet flooring allowed easy handling of a wheelchair for residents who need to get around.

The entire complex is designed for easy manoeuvrability and easy accessibility. Braden says even the door handles are set up in a such a manner that they can be easily used by persons with limited ranges of motion or arthritis-related problems.

Comfortable living

In 1994 Braden's husband passed away and she decided to stay in Aven Court.

One of the things that has made her decision easy is the existence of Aven Court and Aven Manor.

The units in Aven Court each come complete with a kitchen, including all modern appliances, two bedrooms, a washer and a dryer, a living room area and a bathroom, equipped with rails.

"It's very comfortable it has everything a senior could want in a home, you can age in place," she says.

Aside from being close to family and friends, Aven Court is an ideal location, providing seniors access to a number of services and close quarters to downtown.

"We have the Baker Centre a couple of hundred yards away, which has all the activities we could wish for."

Home care is provided to those seniors who require it, the grounds are kept by manor staff, there is access to a Meals on Wheels program and nursing care to residents in need of such service.

Other social activities include such things as bridge, bird walks, fitness programs, painting, bowling and a host of others. There is also a number of activities and education programs put on during seniors week every June.

Braden keeps busy at her home managing her array of flowers, which grow in abundance on her front deck.

She is also very active in seniors' issues and researches information for press releases and other correspondence in association with the Yellowknife Association of Concerned Citizens for Seniors (YACCS).

In fact, the piles of papers and documents at Braden's feet gave evidence to recent work she was conducting in that capacity.

More housing needed

Probably most significant is Aven Court provides seniors with affordable housing, which is important when you are retired and possibly living on a fixed income.

"Otherwise you would be moving into an apartment and paying market rent, which is extremely high. We are subsidized by the Yellowknife Housing Association," says Braden.

Being close to Aven Manor is also a benefit, as in time many seniors do have to make the move to a continuing-care or assisted-living facility.

"Looking down the road into the future the fact is we could live individually as long as we wish to and are able to. But with age comes the illnesses and infirmities that you hope to avoid ... Aven Manor can accommodate anyone with a number of health problems or handicaps," says Braden.

The city helps assist seniors in Aven Court with parking passes and businesses provide senior discounts.

Braden, who is an advocate for seniors and has been for quite some time, says although Aven Court and Aven Manor are great facilities she believes more seniors housing is needed.

"We are in desperate need because people are living in their own homes and are not able to maintain them because of frailty," says Braden.

As the population ages in Canada this trend will continue and Braden says the situation in the north is the same as in other regions.

"The population is aging and staying in the north and facilities haven't kept up," she says.

Unfortunately, how to meet the growing need for seniors housing has been a significant problem across Canada.

A variety of solutions have been considered by all three levels of government, but according to Braden right now the seniors are being let down.

"It's not their responsibility, they have done their part, they were in the world wars, in the depression, we've done our part," says Braden. "They've let us down ... I feel they haven't had the vision."

Evidence of Braden's sentiment is the fact that Aven Manor, the Northwest Territories' only accredited seniors home, has put a freeze on future admissions.

The move boosts Braden's point that the government doesn't have the foresight to ensure funding is in place for adequate seniors housing.

Five people are now on the waiting list for that facility and the number is expected to grow over time until more funding is allocated to the facility.

Braden is deeply disheartened by the lack of commitment there seems to be from the government to seniors.