Genesh: Surviving winter in Alberta

Alberta is experiencing its first deep freeze this winter, and as per weather predictions, there could be more on the way. This extreme weather is bound to be extremely challenging for seniors, in general, and the isolated seniors, in particular.

The topmost challenges that seniors experience in winter involve transportation, grocery shopping, filling prescriptions, exercising, socializing, and snow shovelling. These challenges would be even more strongly experienced by isolated seniors and those living alone at home, with severe impact on their physical and mental health.

With winter comes driving hazards such as fog and reduced visibility, snowy and slippery roads, glare from the oncoming traffic, and so on. Challenges exist for those who resort to public transportation also, in terms of wet slippery steps, open, unheated bus shelters, and navigating the path to the bus stops and back.

The above concerns could restrict us from getting to places for various needs and thereby affect the quality of our life. If this is a concern for you, the first step would be to contact the Golden Circle Senior Resource Centre, and discuss your concerns. They would be able to provide you with volunteer drivers, who would safely transport you to your medical appointments, seniors’ lunch at the centre and so on. If you are currently eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement from the government, you might receive some allowances for transportation.

Other options that offer seniors discounts and wheelchair accessibility include the Red Deer Action Group Subsidy Ride program, the Action Bus, and taxi services, including Associated Cab and Alberta Gold Taxi. The Action Bus even allows an attendant to accompany the senior to appointments at no extra cost. There are several other private organizations that provide transportation services for a fee.

Getting groceries can be challenging during winter months. Since some local groceries provide that service, one option would be to reach out to them. The Golden Circle offers weekly grocery deliveries to qualifying seniors in Red Deer, through its outreach program, for a cost that covers the groceries ordered from downtown Co-op, and a set fee for fuel costs.

There are several stores, such as Sobeys, Co-op and several other private organizations in Red Deer, including Comfort Keepers, Grocery Girl, etc., that would provide same day grocery delivery for a set fee.

Getting prescriptions filled in a timely manner is another challenge during winter months. Several local pharmacies, such as Apple Drugs, Hill-Top IDA, Rexall IDA, Red Deer Value Drug Mart, etc., offer free delivery service for seniors.

Our exercise routine can be affected during the winter months, especially so for seniors whose only exercise is walking. In addition to slippery sidewalks, extreme wind chill can make it dangerous to exercise outdoors.

One safe exercise option is to get an exercise machine – recumbent bike, elliptical, or treadmill – and some light weights, and set up your own home gym.

Other options include taking a membership at Collicutt Centre, which provides tracks for walking enthusiasts, using the city’s recreation centres, or joining an exercise, or dance class at the Golden Circle. These latter options can counter the isolation that is experienced by single seniors during winter months. You can apply for a fee assistance program through Red Deer City website; forms can also be picked up at the City Recreation centres. City Recreation centres also offer a fee discount for seniors.

A popular hobby of seniors that can be affected during winter is reading. Red Deer Public Library offers a free, personalized selection, and home delivery service for qualifying library members who cannot visit the library due to age, illness or disability. You can access this service by contacting the homebound readers service coordinator at the library.

Several allied medical services, including dentures, massage therapy, foot care , and physiotherapy services, can be accessed from your home by contacting specific organizations, who provide these services to home bound seniors. There are some hairdressers in town that provide in-home hairstyling, and beauty treatments, through appointments.

Snow shovelling is another concern for seniors during winter months. Golden Circle Seniors Resource Centre offers snow shoveling services to qualifying seniors.

Winter is here to stay; let us access these community programs and services to overcome winter challenges. More information on any of these services can be obtained by visiting the website reddeer.ca

Padmaja Genesh, who holds a bachelor degree in medicine and surgery as well as a bachelor degree in Gerontology, has spent several years teaching and working with health care agencies. A past resident of Red Deer, and a past board member of Red Deer Golden Circle, she is now a learning specialist at the Alzheimer Society of Calgary. Please send your comments to padmajaganeshy@yahoo.ca

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