Jeanette Fraser shows off one of the chicks resulting from an incubation and hatching program operated by some of the seniors at Riverside Place. (photo/Tim Collins)

Seniors deserve respect and care

Quiet ageism problematic

As the site administrator of Riverside Place, Jeannette Fraser knows all about the need for more seniors housing in the community of Vanderhoof.

That isn’t news.

“We all know that there is a crying need for more subsidized seniors’ housing in the community. Half of the population of Vanderhoof are seniors or soon to be seniors, and the mayor and council have been aware of the situation here and have been working on finding some solutions,” said Fraser.

“I think they genuinely care and are doing a pretty good job of keeping this high on their agenda.”

According to Fraser, the Riverside Place Seniors’ Residence, with it’s 14 assisted living units and 18 supportive housing units, could easily be filled another time over if another facility was made available.

The message that Fraser wants to get out to the community, however, has more to do with the way we treat our seniors in general.

“Seniors do suffer from a form of discrimination that we often don’t even recognize,” said Fraser.

“It happens when a parent or grandparent starts taking forever to do something like getting ready to go out. It can take the patience of a saint to not get frustrated and start telling them to hurry up. We have to realize that people do slow down as they age and we need to respect that part of aging.”

And, worse than berating an elder for taking to long getting ready for an outing, the even more destructive response that sometimes happens is for the outings to stop entirely.

“In some cases, we see those people decide that it isn’t worth it and stop taking the elderly out at all. That’s devastating for that person. It isolates them and hurts them in ways we can’t even imagin,” she said.

Fraser explained that there is a propensity for younger people to treat the elderly as they would treat children, but with less patience.

“In both cases there is a tendency for people to look at someone struggling to accomplish something and step in and do it ourselves. WE know enough to stop ourselves from doing that with little children because we know they have to learn by doing. But it’s not as rewarding watching someone who is losing abilities as it is to watch a child learn and we tend to just do it for them. But that has a really negative effect on the senior..”

Fraser maintains that one cause of this dysfunctional approach has resulted from extended lifespans and the fact that the children of the elderly may not have had the opportunity to learn how to deal with people in their 80’s and 90’s.

“People just didn’t used to live that long,” she said. “Here at Riverside Place, we have 12 people in their 90’s and 10 in their 80’s. One of our residents is about to turn 100.”

In one example of respecting the elderly, Fraser explained that, when interviewing someone from her wait list to determine whether they should make the move to Riverside Place, she always considers them as competant adults and makes no assumptions about their wishes.

“The first thing I ask them is whether they are ready to come here and whether they want to do so. If they say ‘no’ then the interview ends. I contact the family and suggest that they need to have a real conversation with their elderly family member. Maybe they need or want something very different, and that has to be respected.”

Riverside Place has two levels of housing within its operation.

Residents of the assisted living units receive two meals a day, housekeeping once a week, participation in recreational activities (if the resident so chooses) and personal care services through Northern Health as required. The cost for these units is prorated and based upon 70 per cent of the resident’s income.

In the Supportive housing units, residents pay 50 per cent of their income for an individual, locked bachelor suite, one meal a day (each unit also has a full kitchen), laundry service and, again, a variety of optional recreation activities.

Riverside Place opened its doors in May of 2008.

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