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October 26, 2017

Beautiful, accessible redesign for Parkland Seniors’ Lodge

A few years ago, Edson, Alberta celebrated its 100th birthday. One of its eldest residents hopes to celebrate that same milestone at Parkland Lodge, a seniors’ facility getting a long-overdue renovation.

Ninety-eight-year-old Els Folkinga immigrated to Canada from Holland after the war and moved to Edson in 1951. A former railroad town, the area’s charm is still alive and well. Visitors are greeted with hand-painted lettering on glass storefronts along Main Street. Youngsters run around the streets at dusk.

Els and her husband raised their 6 children here. “With so many kids and a husband to look after, I didn’t make it out to town much,” she recalls. “I was always happily busy at home.”

As time went on, her kids grew up and one by one left home. Her husband passed away. It soon became clear to Els that she needed a little more help around the house. In a rural setting, without easy access to services and supports, it was more difficult to stay in her home. So 9 years ago, at the age of 89, Els moved to Parkland Senior Citizen Lodge, operated by The Evergreens Foundation.

She found fellowship with new and old friends, received home care and balanced meals. She had frequent visits from her children and friends. Still, there were some challenges.

Built in 1959, the original Lodge’s rooms were small and difficult to navigate with walkers. The lack of accessibility features resulted in limited mobility for wheelchairs.

The aim of the Evergreens Foundation is to have a seniors’ lodge for the 8 communities under its purview. After the town of Jasper opened its lodge in 2008, the board shifted its focus to Edson to build a brand new Parkland Lodge.

In April 2017, the renovation and construction began. The community came together to move all 55 residents to interim housing at a nearby decommissioned hospital.

Surrounded by friends and the same caring staff, Els is enjoying her temporary home. “Here you don’t have a care in the world. You don’t have to worry about your room and your food is served fresh every day,” she says. “If you are sick, homecare is there. The people here are like extended family now. What else can you want? I am free as a bird here.”

Still, she’s hoping to be back in the lodge for her 100th birthday. The redesigned 105-unit building should be complete by fall 2018. It will include a mix of supportive living, one-bedroom, and self-contained suites.

Els says there’s all kinds of excited chatter swirling among her friends about the renovations. Room size and hallway width are of particular interest. “More than just building a structure, you are building a home because everybody participates here,” she says. “Staff and residents together — it’s a give and take. And isn’t that what life is about?”

This project received funding from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the Alberta Ministry of Seniors and Housing through the Canada–Alberta Investment in Affordable Housing Agreement. It was also made possible thanks to a partnership with The Evergreens Foundation and contributions from the Village of Evansburg, Town of Edson, Town of Hinton, Town of Jasper, Town of Grande Cache, Municipal District of Greenview, Yellowhead County and Parkland County.