Seniors worry about housing costs: report

Cost is still the biggest barrier for seniors seeking appropriate housing outside of the health care system, says a Red Deer seniors’ advocate.

Cost is still the biggest barrier for seniors seeking appropriate housing outside of the health care system, says a Red Deer seniors’ advocate.

Don Hepburn is part of a City of Red Deer Committee that has been studying housing needs and options from the prospective of city seniors.

On Friday, people who have a stake in the issue were called together to reveal results of the study into appropriate seniors’ housing in Red Deer, including a survey of 410 people aged 65 or older.

Further input for the study was gathered by reviewing other literature, direct interviews, workshops and observation.

Findings produced on Friday included tips for various measures people can take to remain in their homes as long as possible, such as replacing bath tubs with walk-in showers, said Hepburn.

Among the questions asked was whether the respondents would still be able to live in their current accommodations five years from now.

That’s a difficult question for an aging population because so much depends on factors that cannot be predicted, such as the potential for having stroke, heart attack or other debilitating illness, said Hepburn.

People can prepare for the future to some extent, but how those plans pan out will swing on whether other issues develop, he said.

The biggest factor of all is whether people will be able to afford housing that is appropriate to their needs, said Hepburn. Most of the facilities available for seniors who don’t need medical assistance come at a cost that some people have a hard time accepting, he said.

“We have a lot of new facilities in Red Deer. They’re all private and they’re all expensive. Especially if you’re seniors, it’s hard to get used to present dollar values.”

Eighty thousand dollars is a lot of money for people who grew up in the Depression, said Hepburn.

Certainly, the burden on taxpayers would be significantly lower if there were more access to home care and to long-term care for those people who are no longer able to stay home.

He cited comments made earlier this month by visiting MLA Raj Sherman, who provided statistics showing that seniors are occupying acute-care beds because they have nowhere else to go.

Sherman provided Alberta Health Care Statistics showing that, while home care costs an average of $4,600 per person per year, that cost rockets to $1.65 million for an acute-care bed.

Linda Healing, supervisor in the city’s social planning department, said about 85 people attended the meeting on Friday. Their comments will be compiled into a follow-up report on the results of the study.

The next steps will be determined by what people said in their comments, which have yet to be reviewed, said Healing.

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com