Fort St. John seniors housing facing vacancies over COVID-19 fear

A quiet hallway at the North Peace Seniors Housing society apartments in Fort St. John on May 11.

Long term care COVID-19 outbreaks made headlines during the pandemic, but as we learn to live with the virus a Fort St. John seniors housing society says fear is fueling vacancies.

Gail Weber President of North Peace Seniors Housing Society. "When COVID hit we had a waiting list for these buildings. Quite a lengthy waiting list. Up to a year… year and a half." But she says that`s changed in the last two years.

Weber attributing openings at the Fort St. John senior’s apartments to fear over COVID. Outbreaks hitting facilities across the country. In November 2020, an outbreak even hitting the North Peace Seniors Housing Society building. .

"Don't be afraid. We take every precaution we can take. And it's a far better lifestyle living here than living at home alone," Weber said.

Although there are single suites, residents taking advantage of communal dining, common area. Now activities cut during COVID, like live music, are returning.

"Other people come to and they get up and dance. They asked me to dance so I get up and dance," said seniors housing resident Ida Peever.

Whether marking milestones together or just making the most of everyday, residents seem pleased.

Only days after celebrating her 100th birthday Zylpha Alexander said living at the seniors apartments is "just the same as any place else. You're ether happy with yourself and that or you can be otherwise too, but I’m quite satisfied and happy."

The society relies on rent, sponsorship and donations rather than government subsidies. Weber says empty rooms affect the non profits bottom line.

Record inflation is only making things worse. Yet, her society remains committed to offering affordable housing for seniors.

"We're thinking of our residents also. We can't force them out because they can't afford it. They deserve a place to live,” Weber said. She says they just can`t throw huge rent increases at residents.

Especially when the price of everything else is rising, while senior's pensions stay the same.