Geoff Olson, executive-director of Bridges Community Living in Red Deer, says the city is short about 200 seniors affordable housing units. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

More Red Deer seniors could be dealing with homelessness, inadequate housing in future

Red Deer is short 200 affordable seniors’ housing units: Bridges study shows

Red Deer has a serious shortage of senior’s housing options, says an advocate, who fears elderly people will be dealing with more homelessness and poverty in future.

The city is short about 200 more affordable seniors’ housing units, according to the latest report compiled by the charitable Bridges Community Living.

Bridges’ executive director Geoff Olson said he will be extremely interested to see what Thursday’s provincial budget announcement will bring in terms of seniors’ housing projects.

While the Baby Boomer generation is considered financially well off, this is a vast generalization, said Olson. He noted many seniors— mostly widows who have either never held jobs, or who have held very low-paying ones — are having to survive on very small pensions.

Many are receiving just over $1,000 a month to live on. When their rent is $800 a month, that leaves very little money leftover for food and other necessities, said Olson.

He expects there will be growing pressure, as the population ages, for older people to find accessible and affordable housing options.

More people will be living in inadequate basement suites, Olson predicts — or “in the worst-case scenario, they will become homeless. That’s a higher risk for seniors today.”

The Red Deer Food Bank has been reporting that older, single people are a growing demographic among its clients.

Bridges Community Living is building a new seniors’ housing complex on the site of the former Red Deer nursing home on 30th Street to replace the aging Piper Creek Lodge.

When it opens in 2021, it will have 90 units rather than the 100 that was previously announced because there has been a change in the scope.

Olson said the initial plan was to create 65 lodge units, as well as 35 self-contained bachelor suites. But the latter was reduced to 25 one-bedroom units as the bachelor apartment plans were considered inadequate to meet seniors’ needs when their children and grandchildren come to visit.

Olson said the project will add only a few additional housing units than are currently available at Piper Creek Lodge — and there’s a waiting list of 100 people just for those suites. But he added that it can’t be expanded beyond the 90 units because of limited provincial dollars.

Bridges Community Living operates provincially owned seniors’ housing around the city, including apartment complexes and and Pines and Parkvale lodges.

Meanwhile, Alberta was also found to have the least per capital nursing home beds in Canada. A 2017 study from the University of Alberta showed Alberta has the highest number of citizens per nursing bed in Canada.

The study showed there were 244.8 citizens per nursing home bed in Alberta. The next highest was New Brunswick with 241.3 citizens per nursing bed. Neighbouring B.C. has 159.2 citizens per nursing bed, while Saskatchewan has 116.1 citizens per nursing bed.

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