Grand Forks’ Seniors Society could fold if it isn’t able to find a suitable centre to host community programs, the city’s Social Service Advisory Group (SSAG) heard Wednesday, Feb. 17.
City and Area D seniors have been without a permanent centre since the 2018 freshet devastated its last location at City Park. The society’s membership has since dwindled from 170 to 47, even as yearly dues were reduced from $20 to $6.
“If we cannot get a seniors’ centre up and running, then we’ll be forced to close,” Secretary Juliana Chadwick told SSAG.
The need for a centre is especially acute because the society can’t apply for grant funding unless it can offer programs at a specific address, she explained. Meanwhile, Chadwick said the society “could have helped so many more seniors” throughout the COVID-19 pandemic if there had been a centre to co-ordinate outreach efforts.
Programs typically offered at seniors’ centres provide much needed points of contact and assistance, which Chadwick said are essential in staving off depression and degenerative conditions in older people, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. “To do that … you need to have a social club that supports you,” she said.
The society has rented a number of venues across Grand Forks since May 2018, most recently at the Old Hardy View Lodge, which once operated an assisted living centre for seniors. Chadwick said the society chose not to renew its lease there last summer because it was difficult to offer programming amid the COVID-19 pandemic and because the facility was not properly heated.
The society had considered renting space at the 72nd Avenue Slavonic Centre, but Chadwick said the arrangement fell through due to logistical complications.
Mayor Brian Taylor said city staff have worked with the society in attempts to provide a portable structure on city land that could operate a temporary centre.
“The door is still open to work with the seniors,” he said, explaining that, “It’s been an on-going challenge to find them a space that’s appropriate for their society.”
Taylor and Chadwick said they were hopeful that the society could partner with Whole Way House, whose co-founder and president Jenny Konkin wants to develop affordable seniors’ housing in Grand Forks.
Chadwick said the society would love to hear from people in the community who might be able to suggest rental opportunities.
“What we’re looking for is a venue out there that is available that we haven’t thought of and that we could rent on a short-term lease.” Ideally, the society would like a space of between 1,500 and 2,000 square feet, preferably with a kitchenette, she added.