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Seniors shine spotlight on affordable assisted living

City council heard from an informal committee on assisted living in Humboldt on May 13.

City council heard from an informal committee on assisted living in Humboldt on May 13. The committee, composed of Agnes Pratchler, Audrey Maier, Sheila Moormann, among others, has a goal of creating affordable assisted living in Humboldt, something the city is lacking.According to Maier's presentation, assisted living housing operators provide five hospitality services: meals, housekeeping, laundry, social and recreational opportunities and a 24-hour emergency response system.However, Pratchler is quick to clarify that assisted living differs dramatically from a nursing home or "fourth level" care."It's just a normal home for seniors where if they need any help with something from time to time, they're provided that option," she said.Pratchler's presentation addressed Humboldt's ongoing dilemma with senior housing. She mentioned that St. Mary's Villa had to convert their assisted living units to fourth level hospital-like rooms, after their wing that normally housed these patients was showing signs of deterioration, becoming a safety risk.Because of that, Pratchler said Humboldt has lost 48 units, both fourth level and assisted living. But assisted living facilities is what her committee has set its sights on. Presently, Caleb Village is Humboldt's only facility for this type of living, but with costs of $2,600 per month, Pratchler believes there needs to be a more affordable option for Humboldt's seniors."People relying solely on a pension as income simply cannot afford to live at Caleb," Pratchler said in a phone interview. Pratchler believes Evergreen Country Home's roughly $600 per month for assisted living, plus 30 per cent of income is a reasonable price.The only problem is that the facility is nearly 30 minutes away in LeRoy, not Humboldt."I think that about $1,200 a month, give or take, is a fair price for one individual," Pratchler said.The committee hopes to convert Humboldt's Harry Ford Center and EastsideVillage into assisted living units, something Pratchler said would be a financially simple transition.They also have ample support from many of Humboldt's senior citizens who have pointed out the need for this type of facility."We need to validate those feelings," Maier said in her presentation. It's clear that the main focus of the committee's attention is on the well-being of seniors themselves. Maier, recently retired, worked at St. Mary's Villa for 23 years in their recreation department, and said it's imperative that seniors have an opportunity for social and recreational opportunities. Maier spent much of her time at the villa in St. Joseph's wing, an area of the facility that housed Alzheimer's patients. It was there that she really saw the impact daily activities, from sensory stimulation to painting and doing dishes, can have on the mind."We did a lot of head work, and noticed their memory improved quite a bit,"she said. Because of this, Maier firmly believes it's crucial for all seniors, no matter the state of their health, to have recreational activities as a fundamental part of their life, and serves as an added push for the committee to set up an assisted living complex in Humboldt. "I just loved my time working with all the seniors at the villa," Maier said. "It really had an impact on me."Their cause is near and dear to the committee's heart but it caught the attention of council as well. Mayor Malcolm Eaton pointed out the importance of connecting with the province and presenting to the Humboldt seniors board as well, in hopes of gaining additional support.Councillor Larry Jorgenson suggested council draft up an official letter from the city for the committee to have on hand."We want others to know that Humboldt's council supports [the committee]; they're not some renegade group," Jorgenson said.Mayor Eaton then said council hopes to have a member on the committee once the ball gets rolling.This is good news for the women, who hope to expand their committee to include the seniors involved and their families, as well as the Humboldt Housing Authority and a representative from the city.In the end, the seniors involved remains the committee's top priority."We don't want to offend anyone. We just want seniors to have a place to live where their needs are met and if they need something, they can get it right away," Pratchler said.