Carole Berger is so thrilled that her neighbour is clearing snow from her front walkway that she’s knitting him a hat and mitts to keep him warm.
“We have a snow angel, who not only clears my sidewalk, right up to my front door, but also does all the neighbours’,” said the 75-year-old resident of Red Deer’s Parkvale neighbourhood.
Berger can’t shovel snow since she hurt herself earlier this year, and her husband can’t since he had a stroke.
She is, therefore, very thankful to her good-hearted neighbour, Randy, for his voluntary snow-blowing services.
But not all Red Deer seniors are so lucky.
Monica Morrison, executive director of the Golden Circle seniors’ resource centre, said there’s much more demand for snow clearing from seniors’ yards than can be filled — and she believes this demand is certain to grow with the aging population.
The Golden Circle runs a program in which independent business people are paid $17.50 an hour to clear seniors’ walkways, with a one-hour minimum charge.
Each entrepreneur must go through a time-consuming police check, according to centre policy — and lately, there haven’t been enough coming forward to fill all the demand, said Morrison.
Centre staff estimate that at least a half-dozen seniors are on a wait list for the program that offers subsidies for those with lower incomes.
In 2009, the City of Red Deer and the Golden Circle started a Snow Angels program to match up those willing to shovel with people who needed help — but it’s been discontinued for many years.
The Golden Circle later approached Red Deer schools to see if young people were interested in getting paid for clearing snow from older people’s yards.
“There was no uptake on that,” said Morrison — perhaps because many students are already struggling to balance homework with jobs and extra-curricular activities.
The city is now urging Red Deerians who can shovel to be “a snow buddy” and look out for older or disabled neighbours who might need help with their sidewalks, walkways or driveways.
Morrison supports this “good neighbour concept.”
She encourages seniors to start looking for snow clearing help earlier in the season, even by August. She also urges community-minded Red Deerians to do something nice for neighbours who can’t keep their walkways clear of snow and ice.
“It fosters a neighbourly sense of community, and we need to build on that,” she added.
It will even help more people get to know their neighbours — which has multiple benefits.