Dozens of seniors gathered for food and discussion at the March 14th luncheon organized by the Valemount Elder Collaborative. Presentations by Mayor Owen Torgerson, Councillor Pete Pearson, and Better at Home coordinator Shelby Weeks informed attendees of the services available to seniors in Valemount. /ABIGAIL POPPLE

By Abigail Popple, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, RMG

Valemount seniors say they want more transportation services, more social events, and more comprehensive health care services within the village, according to an informal survey conducted at the Valemount Elder Collaborative’s Seniors Luncheon.

Roughly 62 people gathered at the Valemount Community Hall on March 14th to eat lunch, socialize, and discuss resources for seniors in the village. Attendees were encouraged to fill out a feedback form produced by the Collaborative. The form asked respondents to name three to five services already in place that let seniors age well in Valemount, asked them to identify the gaps in services and programs that the Collaborative could advocate for, and asked for suggestions on events and workshops that the Collaborative could host in 2024.

Since 2019, the Collaborative has hosted eight other events ranging from free luncheons to health clinics to comprehensive workshops, according to information distributed at the event. For example, the Collaborative organized a Dementia Care and Supports Workshop in September 2023, and it has hosted a number of optometry and audiology clinics over the past five years.

Events like these are a good way to collect information on the senior community’s needs, but they also serve an important social purpose, Collaborative member John Grogan told The Goat.

“Mostly it’s gathering information, but also giving seniors an opportunity to get together,” he said. “There’s a real value in that social aspect.”

Efforts already under way

Valemount Mayor Owen Torgerson and Councillor Pete Pearson gave an overview of how the Village is working to address seniors’ needs.

Torgerson said that the Village is currently assembling an accessibility committee to identify ways to make infrastructure more accessible for people with mobility issues. The committee is currently seeking more members, so he encouraged attendees to call the Village office. He also said that Council is working with Northern Development Initiative Trust and Thompson Valley Charters to identify and remedy gaps in public transportation services.

Pearson said that the Royal Canadian Legion Branch has a Medical Equipment Loan Closet, which provides mobility aids such as wheelchairs, walkers and crutches with no charge or time limit. The closet also accepts donations, he said.

Pearson also encouraged attendees to fill out a Community Health and Wellness Survey created by the Valemount Collaborative Community Table, a local community committee working to identify what should be improved in community health services. He said that the survey will be shared with the committee – comprised of himself, medical professionals, and other community members – to inform which services they should advocate for.

Emergency Services for Seniors

One table in the corner was piled high with emergency kits for attendees to take home. Shelby Weeks, the Better At Home coordinator managing the kit distribution, explained the contents of the kits. Paid for by United Way, each kit includes food and water, a hand-crank radio and flashlight, hand sanitizer, a whistle and a first aid kit.

“Everybody above 60 can get one per household,” she said. “If you’re in a household that has more than one person, you can get a double kit and it will have more water and a few more food packages.”

Weeks also spoke about her work with Better at Home. The service supports independent living by providing seniors with services such as grocery delivery and light housework, she said.

Additionally, employees of the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George and the Village of Valemount shared information about the area’s emergency alert systems.

Suzanne Bloodoff, the Village’s Deputy Director of Finance, gave visitors to her table assistance in enrolling for the Voyent Alert! system. Voyent allows users to sign up for emergency alerts through email, a landline or cell phone at According to Bloodoff, the system currently has over 400 subscribers.

At the same table, Marion Cousineau – part of the Regional District’s Emergency Support Services branch – volunteered her time to distribute information about Connect Rocket, the system which encompasses the broader Regional District. She explained that residents can sign up to receive emergency alerts relevant to the district at

A social affair

Attendees who spoke with The Goat said they appreciated the luncheon for the opportunity to socialize and learn about resources already available.

Laurel McKirdy has previously been involved with the Valemount Senior Citizens Housing Society. She said that establishing long-term care centres in Valemount was what drew her to senior advocacy.

“My mom spent her last six years in extended care in McBride, but she lived her whole adult life here,” McKirdy said. “And other people have lived their whole lives here and then had to leave [due to lack of long-term care].”

McKirdy added that she attended the luncheon to reconnect with her neighbors and other seniors. She said that although some seniors have trouble socializing, she appreciates the regular social events that are already in place, such as the biweekly lunches held at the Golden years Lodge.

Another attendee, Margaret Kinley, said that she was thankful for the opportunity to socialize.

“The last few years I’ve been indoors so much, I wanted to push myself to meet people,” said Kinley, a first-time attendee of a Collaborative event. “It’s good to get this information, and community is really valuable.”