© Geraldine Brophy
Gerine Collingwood is photographed in her home Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012.
CORNER BROOK — When it comes to the housing needs of seniors, Gerine Collingwood said the key word is “affordable.”
Collingwood, a senior peer advocate with the Seniors Resource Centre, said it’s not necessarily that new complexes or developments are needed, because there are a lot of those facilities out there.
The problem is most seniors cannot afford them.
‘They’re not affordable,” said the Corner Brook woman who’s been advocating on behalf of seniors for at least 10 years.
“I know I couldn’t go into one of these homes.
“The era that I lived in and worked in, I was lucky if I took home a couple hundred bucks a month,” said Collingwood.
“And this is what you’re looking at, the cost of living, the cost of everything has gone up. People are digging into their savings just to exist.”
Right now about the only place in the city Collingwood considers truly affordable for seniors are the Corner Brook Interfaith Home cottages.
She said that’s all there is, and there are not enough of them.
Last week, Collingwood attended a housing meeting held by NDP MHAs Gerry Rogers and Christopher Mitchelmore.
The meeting was attended by seniors, people with disabilities and students.
“All people in need,” said Collingwood.
One of the things that came up repeatedly was the cost of home heating.
Collingwood said many seniors are living well below the poverty line with just $1,000 a month to cover all their expenses.
She said the stories out there of seniors turning down their furnaces and going out to the malls just walking around or sitting around, or buying little electric heaters and staying in one room just to save on oil are all true.
“They have no choice,” said Collingwood. “Do I eat well this month, no this is a month I have to keep warm because I’ll freeze to death.”
Collingwood said for seniors it’s really a no-win situation, and it’s one she feels the government is ignoring.
“I just feel the government hasn’t helped seniors in the way they really need to help them.”
She said there needs to be more programs available to help seniors, and to encourage the development of affordable housing.
When is comes to building institutional-type facilities, she said the money would be better spent in building more places like the Interfaith cottages.
Collingwood also said the “well-outdated” regulations concerning homecare need to be revised.
Other than the four to five hours a day of homecare Collingwood is entitled to, she is the primary caregiver to her husband David.
“And this is supposed to be my golden years,” she said.
But like so many others she’ll do it for as long as she can, until she gets burnt out or something happens that leaves her with no choice but to put her husband into an institution.
She said the approach needs to be changed and instead of pushing people to enter institutions more should be done to keep them at home, because there are a lot of people in institutions that don’t need to be there.