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Health care and affordability are top concerns of older Red Deerians

Seniors were celebrated at Mayor’s Garden Party
Red Deer Mayor Ken Johnston chats with some senior guests at the Mayor’s Garden Party, which was held indoors at the Harvest Centre at Westerner Park on Tuesday. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Many Red Deer seniors are struggling with the high cost of living and finding affordable housing.

They want more doctors and improvements made to the health care system. Some are dealing with chronic loneliness.

These and other concerns were expressed during Seniors Week while the City of Red Deer’s 49th annual Mayor’s Garden Party with was held Tuesday at the Harvest Centre at Westerner Park.

Red Deer Mayor Ken Johnston welcomed about 270 seniors to this year’s event — and admitted he’s also over the age of 65 and a senior. “I wear that title as a badge of honour… To quote a rock song, ‘We built this city’,” Johnston added, referencing a song by ’80s band Starship.

Audience member Gilles Allard agreed with Johnston’s statement about seniors having contributed countless work and volunteer hours. He therefore believes the lives of seniors should be easier. “We lose track of our priorities (and) people pay the ultimate price. It shouldn’t be be this way…”

Allard knows many older Albertans are living in poverty and dealing with an “overwhelming” cost-of-living, “especially utilities, and electricity. He believes all aspects of health care should be more accessible and the full cost of pharmaceuticals covered.

“In a resource-rich province, we have a long ways to go in caring for our seniors and the vulnerable.”

Most Red Deer seniors who were interviewed at the Mayor’s Garden Party cited the high cost of living and unaffordability as their main concerns.

After decades in the workforce of this oil-rich province, Billy Kushnir believes Albertans shouldn’t have to pay world oil prices, considering residents of Saudi Arabia play something equivalent to 11 cents a litre.

Marilyn Williamson, a volunteer at the Golden Circle, feels Red Deer needs more affordable housing options. She would also like to see more public benches installed along trails and routes to grocery stores to encourage older people to walk, so they can rest as needed.

Another man, Dennis, age 81, is hoping for more rebates to help with the high cost of groceries.

Having spent 10 weeks at the Red Deer hospital last winter, Dennis saw first-hand the staff and space shortages at the facility and hopes the provincial government can accelerate the Red Deer hospital expansion.

“Health care is first and foremost,” agreed Kushnir.

Vera Hoover hopes to see more doctors arriving to practise in the city. Other people noted a similar lack of local physical therapists and home care workers.

And the chronic problem of loneliness was voiced by Gloria Mallis, who moved to Red Deer from Innisfail and has found it difficult to make new friends here. Problems getting to the Golden Circle or even meet-up groups, are exacerbated when seniors don’t drive and are house-bound she added.

Lana Michelin

About the Author: Lana Michelin

Lana Michelin has been a reporter for the Red Deer Advocate since moving to the city in 1991.
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