Seniors booming

By Geoff Lee

August 30, 2017 12:27 PM

It was groundbreaking day for the demolition and reconstruction of three wings of the Vermilion Valley Lodge on May 18 in this Source file photo.

The greying of Alberta with aging boomers is prompting the Vermilion & District Housing Foundation (VDHF) to maintain its capital fundraising campaign for future seniors’ housing needs.
VDHF has already raised more than $830,000 toward its current goal of $1.5 million associated with the phased reconstruction of 50 rooms going on at the Vermilion Valley View Lodge.
The lodge will have 124 suites in total, which VDHF CAO Sheri Heller said meets the current demand, but will fall short of what’s needed within 10 years when as many as 4,000 residents in the area will be 65 years or older.
“Our first wave of boomers retired in 2011 and the average age of residents for us is 86, so that could mean by 2026, those residents will be 85 and needing our services,” said Heller.
“We don’t have a wait list now, but once we hit 2024-26, then definitely we’re going to need more rooms.”
She said if just 10 per cent of those boomers need seniors’ housing, then 400 rooms will be required.
Heller said for that reason, the capital program will continue to meet future needs.
A sod turning ceremony for the two-phased lodge redevelopment took place on May 18 and Heller reports everything is on schedule.
“We’ve got the basement walls going up; the firewall is going up; there’s an elevator shaft that’s up,” Heller said last Thursday.
Phase One will house 16 new rooms in one new wing, with occupants of the old wing moved to A and B wings that has a kitchen and dining area, until Phase One is complete.
“We’ve phased our construction so nobody had to leave,” said Heller.
Phase Two will demolish A and B wings to construct 36 new rooms, including a couple of craft rooms and a new commercial kitchen and dining room.
D and E wings will be be retained as they are.
The modernized infrastructure is essential for providing seniors housing that follows current standards.
The $14.1 million project will construct larger rooms with walk-in showers and conveniences like upgraded bathing rooms.
Heller calls the project only the first step to address the increasing problem of an aging population in the County of Vermilion River and Town of Vermilion.
The seniors Lodge is a Level 2 facility for independent living, with an attached Level 3 facility with no need for expansions.
What Vermilion doesn’t have is a Level 4 care facility for 24/7 support.
“Who will be the provider of that type of facility, we don’t know yet,” said Heller.
“We want people to stay in the community for the full range of care.
“Right now they would have to leave the community for that Level 4 care.”
Heller hopes keeping the dialogue going about future housing needs will keep the fundraising momentum going.
“We’ve had a lot of major donations from local businesses,” said Heller, including a $10,000 from a local business last Wednesday.
She said they put together a capital committee including key movers and shakers in town who have gone to their peers and asked for the donations.
“That has been tremendously successful,” said Heller.
“It’s hard to turn down someone you know.”
Some of the funds from the current capital campaign will go toward providing residents with a well equipped puzzle and crafts room, along with fun things for them and visitors to do.
“Once the landscaping is done, we’re adding mini golf,” she said.
“We’re going to make it a place where some people have fun.”

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