Skip to content

Growing seniors' alarm must be taken seriously

Last week the provincial government sent out a press release announcing five Albertans and three organizations have been honoured for their exceptional volunteer service to seniors. None of those honoured were from Red Deer.

Last week the provincial government sent out a press release announcing five Albertans and three organizations have been honoured for their exceptional volunteer service to seniors.

None of those honoured were from Red Deer.

In fact, the last time a Red Deerian won this annual award, which has been running for 13 years now, was in 2000 when Wilma Bullock was a recipient.

Certainly there are many worthy recipients across the province. But perhaps they don't speak as loudly as they do in Red Deer, which may be causing too much alarm or annoyance within provincial government circles.

Yes, local seniors are making plenty of noise these days about the province's intent to close Valley Park Manor and the Red Deer Nursing Home, a pair of facilities with 216 long-term beds, deemed a few years ago by the former David Thompson Health Region as too expensive to update.

Instead, the government moved ahead with a plan to put displaced seniors into Extendicare Canada's new Michener Hill Village, a 220-bed facility set to be complete by this fall.

Last week, with the equally noisy support from the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, seniors let it be known louder still at a rally that the government plan is unacceptable.

In the meantime, the province is promising 100 new local affordable accommodation spaces for seniors which could be up and running by 2012. As well, the Stelmach government has committed $10 million to Covenant Health to help build the spaces at a new proposed facility for Red Deer.

But once again this has not stopped the building roar coming from the local seniors' community, which is now seeing a waiting list in the region for long-term care beds of more than 200.

Everyone knows the population is aging, and as the years roll by, the current estimated shortage of 1,700 long-term care beds in Alberta could grow to as many as 10,000 beds in another decade.

And so far, the province has not given any real appearance it is taking this seriously, considering it was only less than a year ago Alberta Health Services cut long-term care funding by 3%.

While we can only speculate whether the province will do an about face and appropriately answer the current alarm, we can be absolutely certain that if it doesn't the noise coming from the seniors' community will get louder still.