Providing for our seniors is a sound investment in Alberta’s future

Written by Kim Schreiner, MLA for Red Deer-North

Alberta seniors are one of our most valuable resources. They built this province and it is all of our responsibility to celebrate them and ensure that they live with dignity and have access to the supports they need to thrive.

Issues faced by seniors are very important to me. I worked for many years in the health sector with seniors and individuals with mental and physical disabilities. Our government, too, supports a strong commitment to seniors. We are investing in long-term care that provides the protection and respect they deserve and focus on enhancing their quality of life. I am proud to be a part of our initiatives.

In October 2015 our government unveiled a commitment to deliver 25 new supportive living projects that provide long-term and dementia care throughout Alberta. These projects were approved following a thorough review of the Affordable Supportive Living Initiative (ASLI). These wise investments will ensure that our seniors have access to all the supports they need.

This year $1 million in grants will be made available for these groups and organizations to develop innovative ways to address and stop elder abuse.

Recognizing the need for additional spaces is only one aspect of our promise. Further funding will be invested to install fire sprinklers and upgrade safety systems in government-owned seniors’ lodges and continuing care centres throughout Alberta. These upgrades will benefit 4700 housing units in 75 seniors’ lodges and 1800 units within continuing care facilities that were built prior to our mandate. Ensuring the safety of Albertans is at the forefront of our focus and investment in these dwellings is one way we are working toward safety for all.

While there is limited data about elder abuse in Canada it is estimated that between four and eight per cent of older adults are likely to experience abuse. Elder abuse can be financial, emotional or physical. It can be neglect or inadequate medical attention. Whatever its form, it is profoundly wrong and needs to be stopped. Communities play a crucial role in ending this form of exploitation. Our government is calling on municipalities, seniors groups and community organizations to work with us toward that end. This year $1 million in grants will be made available for these groups and organizations to develop innovative ways to address and stop elder abuse. Together we can ensure seniors are safe in their homes and in their communities; we can raise awareness and pursue the best strategies aimed at ending elder abuse.

Ensuring that seniors have access to affordable housing is another core part of our plan. It also requires community collaboration. The Alberta government is working with numerous organizations, including municipalities, housing authorities, non-profit and private sector organizations to ensure affordable, adequate housing for seniors. We have made it a priority to ensure that all seniors – including those of modest means – have a positive aging experience in housing that meets their needs. To accomplish this various resources are available, including financial assistance, housing searches, policy frameworks and advisory councils. Capital grant programs also stimulate the province’s supply of affordable housing.

Our pride in Alberta begins with recognizing and meeting the diverse needs of those who are the cornerstone of our Albertan families. Protecting them and providing for them is a sound investment in Alberta’s future.

Column originally published in the Albertaner March, 2016