Importance of affordable and supported homes for seniors backed by building manager

Seniors, especially those who are homeless, are often forgotten by those less wearied by time – yet these seniors are the ones who paved the way for younger generations to move into the golden ages themselves.

Michelle Graefer, a building manager for Trinity Place Foundation of Alberta (TPFA), believes in respecting and protecting Calgary’s aging population. “Yes, our own futures are important,” she says. “But so are the people who made it possible for us to have a future.”

Graefer began managing George C. King Tower, a building for low-income seniors, two years ago. Working with people who had lived on the streets, in shelters or hospitals, or had been trapped in unsafe living conditions, was a new experience for her. She quickly learned that patience and laughter go a long way.

“So many of the residents haven’t had nearly enough laughter in their lives,” she says. “They had no reason to smile. But now, with a home of their own, they wake up with one.”

Graefer’s time with TPFA has been “life-altering” – so much so that she decided to donate half of her bonus to RESOLVE, designated to TPFA’s upcoming project.

The building will put roofs over the heads of over 120 seniors who are vulnerable to or experiencing homelessness – complimented by TPFA’s “More than Housing” model, which includes supports like on-site nursing and physician care, independent living skills workers, social workers, meal options, social activities and other in-home programming.

Because these support services are offered on site, it’s not only easy for tenants to access them, but it also restores their independence and improves overall health and wellbeing.

Because chronic homelessness will add up to 20 years to an individual’s age, the myriad of health needs often accumulated through homelessness can develop at a much younger age than the general population.

A point-in-time homeless count conducted in October 2014 showed that 3.5 per cent of the homeless population was over the age of 65 and another 38.6 per cent in the 45-64 age range – a group that will soon be joining the senior population.

Calgary is in critical need of more safe, affordable and supported housing for seniors. And Graefer’s passion for TPFA’s mission is evidence of this. “Everyone has a story,” she says. “Here, we can turn a sad ending into a happy one.”