The oldest seniors lodge still open in Alberta — Red Deer’s Piper Creek Lodge — will be replaced with a new facility to be built only a few blocks away at the former Red Deer Nursing Home site.
On Monday, the province announced $12.2 million to replace the existing 65-unit lodge operated by Piper Creek Foundation. It provides subsidized, low-income housing in Red Deer.
The foundation has been looking to rebuild for 10 years.
“The building is not necessarily appropriate for seniors. In the original wings built in 1956, the suites are 156 square feet and they only have the half-baths. They don’t have a bathtub. They don’t have a shower. There’s a common shower in the hallways that folks have to use,” said foundation executive director Geoff Olson, after Seniors Minister Jeff Johnson’s funding announcement at the lodge on Monday morning.
The foundation would like to start construction in the fall. It would take 18 months to two years to complete.
He said Red Deer Nursing Home would be demolished as the building also has age-related issues.
The government has funded 65 units but the foundation will look at whether more units are possible as planning progresses, he said.
Piper Creek Lodge, at 4820 33rd St., is on one acre. Red Deer Nursing Home, at 4736 30th St., sits on three acres.
“We’re excited. It’s close to amenities. It’s close to Sunnybrook Farm so lots of opportunities for residents to get out and get around. It’s going to be fantastic.”
Olson said the future of the existing lodge will be determined after construction is complete.
For years, seniors have been advocating that Red Deer Nursing Home and Valley Park Manor, closed in 2010, be reopened to seniors waiting for continuing care beds, particularly long-term care.
Last week, Red Deer found out it was getting 180 continuing care beds as part of the province’s plan to fund 2,612 continuing care beds, including almost 400 long-term care beds.
Red Deer’s 180 beds include 60 long-term care beds to be added to Covenant Care Villa Marie, but it was unknown exactly what type of beds were destined for a new 120-bed facility called The Hamlets of Red Deer, to be built and operated by H&H Total Care Services Inc., of Surrey, B.C.
On Monday, the province announced The Hamlets will have 120 long-term care beds, along with 24 supportive living beds.
Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski said with a total of 180 long-term care beds coming to Red Deer, that means the city is getting about half of the long-term care beds announced last week.
And she said it was exciting to see the Red Deer Nursing Home site be used for a new Piper Creek Lodge.
“You see, we were saving it for something good,” Jablonski said with smile.
“For me, it’s like tying up a loose end,” said the MLA, who won’t be seeking re-election.
Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer said building the new lodge is an opportunity to address one of the city’s priorities — to provide safe, affordable housing, in this case for seniors.
What will happen with Valley Park Manor site in Riverside Meadows has not yet been announced and neither has the location of The Hamlets of Red Deer.
Johnson said Premier Jim Prentice is following through on his promise to invest in infrastructure like seniors facilities and schools.
“Those are two areas we can’t rein in because of the growth in those areas in the province are so significant that we have to invest,” said Johnson.
Brenda Corney, chairperson of the Red Deer Chapter of Friends of Medicare, welcomed 120 more long-term care.
“We need the long-term care beds. We have been asking for them for a long time,” Corney said.
“There is a need in this area because it’s the central hub for a lot of things and we don’t want to be shipping our people to outlying areas where their families have a hard time getting to them.”
But government needs to make sure the facility has the staffing level to provide proper care, for example with unannounced spot checks, she said.
Other recent provincial investments in seniors housing in Red Deer are fire sprinklers and safety upgrades for Parkvale Lodge and Pines Lodge.
Olson said making safety upgrades to Piper Creek Lodge was also on the list, but will have to be re-examined with the arrival of funding for a new building.