By Andru McCracken

Valemount Cares, a committee of the Valemount Senior Citizens Housing Society is in the process of putting together a proposal for an independent living seniors facility and they have started by hiring Rashmi Narayan to get things started.

The committee is well acquainted with the plight of seniors who wish to live in the community as they age and the costs, financial and emotional, of leaving their hometown.

The issue in focus
Rashmi Narayan said that the passing of Blanche Powell who was a long time resident of Golden Years Lodge and a big part of the life of the facility has given new energy and urgency to the project.

Narayan explains:
“Her family asked that donations in her memory be given for the Valemount Cares future care facility and donations have been trickling in,” she said.

Narayan said a survey of seniors indicated an overwhelming desire for independent living facilities with some services.

“Most people wanted independent living, but they wanted all the services,” said Narayan.

Valemount Cares is devoted to addressing that need and Narayan said there is hope for just such a facility.

“BC Housing has been encouraging Valemount to be ready for a call for proposals this spring,” she said.

“Our idea is to create assisted living services for independent seniors.”

Because of licensing requirements and the way Northern Health Authority currently tackles services for seniors, Narayan and the committee are carefully plotting their course to get the support of potential partners.

The group hopes to build housing units with common areas and a shared kitchen to provide meals.

Narayan said the new facility would use existing services, but weave them together for the benefit of seniors. For example, homecare workers would still visit seniors under existing programs.

“The question is this: how do we make things better than they are now?” said Narayan.

“If we go to Northern Health and ask for a care facility we will never get that, but people are willing to pay for additional services.”

Narayan said that when seniors leave the community they are required to pay for these additional services too.

“My care committee group identified 15 people who live outside the community and are paying substantial costs,” she said.

Narayan said that one of the benefits is that the facility will create jobs and likely be less expensive than equivalent urban care.

They have been consulting with Valemount Health Centre’s doctors, nurses and staff to plan a facility that responds to the needs here.

“The ideas include a clinic room with enough space for doctors to see patients, nurses suggested having a massage room and doctors expressed support for including staff housing on a second level,” she said.

Narayan said that planning such a project is a big task for the seniors housing society.

“We need to work with existing service providers and slowly work towards a care facility,” she said.

Narayan said they will be applying to a Columbia Basin Trust housing grant to plan the housing units and determine the capital cost, rents and conceptual drawings.

“The next step would be to make a pitch to BC Housing for the project,” she said. Since an important aspect of the project is planning services for seniors, the society will be looking to CBT’s Community Initiatives grant to help with that.

Narayan is also alive to the idea that the Robson Valley could overbuild seniors facilities, so they are working with the proponent of Robson Valley Legacies project in McBride, Doug Monroe.

“We want to ensure we are sharing resources and both projects are feasible,” she said.

Laurel McKirdy, a retired nurse living in Valemount, said that the problem facing elderly residents is not medical care.

“We have very good medical care here. We just need the structure to provide personal care and support in the community in a more sustainable way,” she said.

Narayan said planning the facility is the right move for the community to make.

“It makes sense that we take on the role of coordinating services for residents who have diminishing capacity to ask for what they need and who have to rely on friends and family to be their advocate for those services,” she said.

Valemount Cares is hosting a Valentine’s Tea on Friday, February 14th 1:30-3:30 at the Golden Years Lodge. The committee will give updates on what they’re working on, seek input and accept donations towards the new facility.