The suites range in size from 304 to 550 square feet, with small kitchenettes, although two meals a day will be provided and included in rent. Society President Gail Weber says she hopes to have them all ready for occupancy by October 1, adding the Society already has a waiting list of 157 people for the Peace Lutheran Apartments and the new housing.
“There’s so many seniors in this town that need a place to go, a place where they can socialize with other people, not be stuck in a house all by themselves, and we’re just trying to add to that,” she says.
There are already residents of the Peace Lutheran Apartments, which are also run by the Housing Society, that want to move into the new home, freeing up those spaces as well. The new building will also be a benefit to the seniors already living in those apartments, as they are connected by an indoor hallway, creating what Weber calls a “community”.
“People can intermingle. They can have a social life in the winter without going outside,” she says, adding, “This is also going to offer us the opportunity to offer meals to the people in those apartments. It’s an improvement for everybody.”
Weber points out that Fort St. John has the fastest growing seniors community in the province, but clearly doesn’t have the accommodation available for them, as shown by the waiting list numbers.
“There’s no where for them to go other than to stay in their own home, which is very lonely if you live by yourself,” she argues. “We need places where people can grow old happily and safely. We’re trying to make safe, happy accommodations for these people.”
Weber explains that seniors living at home alone may also eat poorly, and family members can get burned out taking care of them.
The 18 suites are only the first phase of a three phase seniors housing plan. The second is to develop the south end of the building into 33 more rooms, and the third is to build a new property on the land of the former Elks seniors’ home. So far, the project has been financed solely from rent paid to the Society, but it now plans to look for sponsors for the future phases.
“Going phase by phase, hopefully we can help alleviate some of the problem, and do what we can to help those that really need it,” says Weber. “The seniors in this community have given an awful lot to this community all their lives. They’ve paid their taxes, they’ve been good citizens. It’s time we did a little something for them.”