Blog | September 09, 2013

By Elizabeth McSheffrey, Grande Prairie Daily Herald-TribuneGrande Prairie residents young and old gathered at Muskoseepi Park this weekend for a rally on issues concerning Alberta’s seniors.More than 20 supporters showed up for the discussion, which coincided with National Grandparents’ Day on Sunday.The rally was a collaborative effort of the Alberta Seniors Task Force and Public Interest Alberta, which have labelled cuts to public seniors care services as being “unfair.”“I want people to know what’s going on,” said organizer Heather Haiste.“This is the world we live in, this is the life that we have and we need to look after the people that need us to do that.”In March, the provincial government made a series of budget cuts that impacted seniors’ property tax, income benefits and health care.Concerns about the privatization of home and long-term services now have residents lobbying for increased representation when it comes to policy.“We don’t have any kind of advocacy for seniors,” said Haiste.“We have a child and youth advocate and it’s working very well in the system—why are they not putting that in the other parts of the vulnerable sector?”The organizer passed around a petition asking the province for a similar spokesperson, which was quickly covered in public signatures.If the advocate could act as an auditor, answer to the Minister of Heath and stay in touch with the needs of Albertan families—all the better, she said.“Our seniors are presenting more and more complex needs,” Haiste explained. “With an advocate, there’s more due diligence, it ensures more transparency.”Though many of the protesters were under the age of 65, most had personal experience dealing with provincial care for aging seniors.They named chronic understaffing and a lack of public involvement as major obstacles to comprehensive service.“Right now we have a system that is so poorly setup for personal care,” said Kevin Anderson, a Valleyview resident and former mental health worker.“We have individuals that draw plans and implement them that actually have no experience in the system.”The rally lasted for roughly two hour as participants swapped personal stories, concerns and information pamphlets.The goal was to inspire a “proactive” rather than “reactive” response from government officials and improve awareness of the issues at hand.“The government comes at it from a financial point of view and they’re not looking at the whole person,” explained Haiste.“If we don’t do something about it today, it’s going to get worse and worse.”It may be an uphill climb, but the organizer believes the effort is critical in changing the province’s perspective on the aging population.When living in the “best country in the world,” Haiste said, no one deserve to be “thrown under the bus.”elizabeth.mcsheffrey@sunmedia.caTwitter: @DHTElizabethRead the article online at the Daily Herald Tribunal, Grande Prairie