Remember the first time some kid came to the door and called you “Mister” or “Mam”?

You were probably shocked and said to yourself, “Dang I’m getting old. The kid thinks I’m an adult.”

Much the same thing happens when some sales clerk asks if you want the seniors discount, “Yikes.”

Some people will be delighted that they get a discount, while other will deny their age even if it means paying full price.

Personally, I am not all that keen on the term SENIORS. I don’t like pigeon holing people into categories based upon their age, sex, heritage, religion or shoe size. However, I have been asked to write a column for this special edition of the Yellowknifer from an old timer’s point of view, so here goes.

A lot of long-term residents in the North live in the own home and they want to stay in them, despite the work this involves. Not only is this a good thing for the seniors, but it also helps keep health-care costs down. So all levels of government should encourage this. Unfortunately, governments often do things that make it tougher for seniors to stay in their homes.

If you own a home and have a sidewalk in front of it, then you are expected by the city and the public to keep it clean. If you live in the downtown core, it is the law that you must clean it down to the concrete within 24 hours of a snow fall.

Also, once a week you have to get the garbage out and the cans the city gives out are honking big ones. Some people must navigate slopes, stairs, deep snow or get it across the lane.

So this put another burden on home owners.

It could be too much for some seniors, for people who are disabled, ill or recovering from some mishap or accident. Even a pregnant woman whose husband/partner is away might have problems.

It is important to remember that it is not just seniors, that could use a helping hand or a good neighbor occasionally. The city did start a Snow Angel program that sort of works, but they also need Garbage Can Angels, Help Getting Stuff to the Curb Angels for big item pick up days, Christmas Tree Removal Angels and Angles with Pickups for Amnesty Days.

The health-care system could use a number of volunteer angels as well. To help people who are ill, injured or not as able as they once were. It could be as simple as checking in on them occasionally running the odd errand or even taking them to an appointment.

The ideal solution would be for the GNWT to help the city and other communities in the North set up a volunteer Good Neighbor program. Identify the people who are willing to help if needed and pair them up with any requests for assistance that comes in.

This would be good for elders, old timers and any resident that has a legitimate need. Properly run it would make the north a better place for everyone and reestablish that sense of a healthy community.

Something else for the health care profession to consider. There should be a doctor or nurse practitioner, who can make house calls. They should also be able to write prescriptions and I would include prescriptions for free passes to city facilities. A person trying to get in shape for surgery or one recovering from treatment should be able to go to the field house or swimming pool for free, as part of their physiotherapy.

Maybe in some community’s people should have prescriptions for healthy foods like fruits and vegetables as well.

For people on low or fixed income and there are a number of programs available for them to cut costs. The problem is they are all run separately by the city, the band, the GNWT, or the federal government and each one must be applied for separately.

It would be nice if they could all be synchronized, and then a person could just go to one office and fill out one form to qualify for all of them, if they pass the means test. It should be doable, if the various levels of government would get together, talk to each other and play nice.

If you look at the organizations and services groups in town, you will see a lot of seniors making this a better place by volunteering. They are a wealth of common sense, knowledge, information and have a longer perspective on things. This is a resource that all levels of government should tap into. To start with every level of government should have an old times or elders committee advising them.

As more then one old timer has commented “Growing old is not for the faint of heart and there is nothing more frustrating then seeing a bunch of young hot shot politicians and government workers, making the same mistake that has been made dozens of times before.”

So in closing, the government and society should view old timers as a resource and not a liability. It would make the north a much healthier place.

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