Safety, housing and transportation were the key issues identified by the city’s seniors advisory committee in the past year, according chairperson Darren Saare.
The committee was struck last year as part of an initiative on the city’s part to increase citizen involvement in civic government.
With the population over 75 expected to increase by 96 per cent by 2034, Saare said that the city needs a more responsive body in charge of seniors housing.
“We’re hoping to see a senior committee formed to address the issue of seniors’ housing,” said Saare. The committee would be similar in nature to the Alberni Valley Stakeholders Initiative to end homelessness, run out of MLA Scott Fraser’s office.
“There’s some great talent on the numerous non-profits in town. By having them all in the same room together, as opportunities come forward we’ll be able to act on them quicker,” he said.
Saare said it was important to be able to seize each and every opportunity to bring more seniors housing to the Alberni Valley, whether it be assisted living, independent living or congregate care.
“We need all forms of housing,” he said.
It needs to be in good condition, too—according to Saare, there was a higher percentage of dwellings needing repairs in Port Alberni at 13 per cent than on Vancouver Island or in B.C. at seven per cent.
“So what happens is that seniors are unable to stay in their homes as long as they can in other communities and they’re prematurely ending up in care homes.”
Coun. Denis Sauve, the city’s liaison to the seniors advisory committee expressed concern over the fact that those care homes are often outside of the Alberni Valley.
“I see seniors having to visit their loved ones in another town,” said Sauve.
“It’s the crapshoot of actually having a placement but having to be out in Parksville or Victoria or Nanaimo.”
Coun. Jack McLeman agreed that VIHA hasn’t given enough funding to seniors housing in the Alberni Valley.
“Last word they gave us was that 15 beds in Parksville was good enough for Port Alberni.”
There are currently 192 publicly subsidized beds split between Echo Park, Fir Village, Rainbow Gardens and Westhaven in Port Alberni.
Saare said that with all of the stakeholders together in one committee, their voices would likely have more weight with VIHA.
McLeman said that while he supported the initiative, he was concerned that it would just be a duplication of others already in existence.
“It’s a good idea what you’re doing but what I’d hate to see happen is just another committee formed and duplicating things that are happening.”
City council directed staff to facilitate the creation of a seniors housing stakeholders initiative.