The Hay River North MLA says he’ll heading back to the legislative assembly next month with an eye for keeping seniors in their homes – among a number of other issues he’s heard from senior constituents.
“A lot of seniors want to stay in their own homes,” R.J. Simpson said. “Some want to move out and live where there’s maybe more people around so that they don’t feel isolated. But a lot of people want to stay in their own homes. So there’s a lot of concern about the availability of supports to do that, whether it’s the seniors’ home heating fuel subsidy or it’s getting people to come and even cut their grass and shovel the snow, or basically being able to afford renovations so that you can stay in your house.”
This after meeting with about 30 seniors on Aug. 8.
“I’m going back to Yellowknife in September and I wanted to know what issues I should be bringing forward,” he said. “I talk to seniors individually and I hear the same issues over and over again. So I wanted to make sure that those were the broad issues I should be focusing on, as well as hear about some things that maybe I haven’t heard about because not everyone wants to go to their MLA to discuss their concerns.”
Simpson said the discussion focused on health care and housing issues.
“I was aware of the general issues, but it’s always good to hear about how people experience those specifically,” he said. “It’s good to have examples to bring forward to the minister or to the house so people see that these aren’t just faceless issues. They actually affect people.”
Among the issues he heard were concerns about medical travel, the process to get a walk-in appointment at the medical clinic that could see a person have to go there three times in a day, and the lack of homecare.
Simpson said he also heard a lot about accommodations and housing.
“There’s a lack of suitable accommodations for seniors in town. Part of that falls under Housing, but part of that is that there’s not enough private market accommodations,” he said.
The MLA heard seniors’ concerns about the number of times an audiologist visits the community from Yellowknife.
“As a result, there’s no one here to fine tune people’s hearing aids, and so a lot of these hearing aids just sit in drawers instead of being used,” he said. “Almost everyone who spoke had issues with that.”
Simpson also noted some seniors actually told him they head south for certain medical services.
“What really surprised me was a lot of seniors talked about going to Alberta to receive medical services,” he said. “Not referred by the government, but they have just in some cases given up on the GNWT providing certain medical services and are just going down to Alberta to access them themselves.”
That could range from having hearing aids fixed to more general services.
Some people might have a doctor they have been going to see in Edmonton, said Simpson. “Every once in a while they’ll just go down there and that will be their family doctor, essentially.”
Tom Makepeace, president of the Hay River Seniors’ Society, helped organize the Aug. 8 meeting.
Makepeace gave a similar list of concerns raised by the seniors’ at the meeting.
“There is a whole whack of issues that are facing seniors in the North, and we’re going to try to come to grips with them,” he said.
Makepeace mentioned housing, specifically government support for seniors in subsidized housing versus assistance for those in their own homes; the availability of homecare; concerns about medical travel; and concerns about the process to get a walk-in appointment at the medical clinic.
The society president noted the Aug. 8 meeting included people from both Hay River North and Hay River South.