Pat Allen-Shevchenko, daughter of Les and Pansy Allen, opens the door to an emergency evauation device that has been used to shuttle some residents to their upper floor rooms in Closeleigh Manor. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Broken elevator means mobility nightmare for Whitehorse seniors

Elevator in Closeleigh Manor has been out of service three times in the last year

Two residents of Closeleigh Manor are tired of “Band-Aid solutions” to an elevator that’s been out of service three times in the last 12 months.

Les and Pansy Allen are currently living apart after Pansy, 83, broke her ankle on March 17.

Two of the couple’s daughters, Mary Blahitka and Pat Allen-Shevchenko, said their mother can’t make it back into her third floor unit without the elevator. Their father, 96, who has COPD and athsma, can’t make it out to visit her.

At the moment, Allen-Shevchenko said, the family is applying to get their parents into a main floor unit at the downtown residence. Of the 30 units there, six are on the main floor. All are currently occupied.

Even if the elevator is fixed by the end of the week, as the Yukon Housing Corporation (YHC) has said it expects, Allen-Shevchenko said her parents can’t rely on it after an incident like the one on the weekend.

Two days after his wife had surgery on her ankle, Les sat in his living room, crocheting toques, something he does to help with his arthritis. It has the added benefit of giving him something to do after arthritis made his hands too shaky to paint.

His framed pictures hang on the walls. Some are of the Teslin River, where Les and Pansy met decades ago.

They were married at St. Philip’s Anglican Church in Teslin on January 3, 1956.

On a wall adjacent to Les’s river paintings is a framed letter from Queen Elizabeth, congratulating the pair on their 61st anniversary.

Down the hall is Pansy’s room. She woke up there around 4 a.m. on Saturday after having injured her ankle climbing the building’s stairs the day before. When she put weight on it, it broke.

Pansy crawled into the hall and lay at the door of Les’s room for almost an hour. She called his name, but he was asleep, without his hearing aid. Pansy started throwing CDs from a nearby shelf, trying to hit him. Les said when he did wake up, Pansy had to help him use the phone to call their daughter Gina.

“I’m no good on the phone,” Les said. In fact, he said he’s not very good off the phone either.

“My wife, I can’t get (hear) her at all. Very rarely. She gets mad at me. She said she wished she’d fell near the bookcase,” he said, pointing at a shelf filled with heavy hardcovers.

He said he thinks YHC does the best it can, but he’s adamant that something needs to change.

“They should never put the handicapped up here,” Les said, acknowledging that he was more mobile when he moved into the buidling in 2010. “We should all be down below.”

He said there are many seniors on the upper floors with walkers and electric buggies.

“How the hell can they get down the stairs? I got a walker. I can’t get down the stairs. So right from the start they should never put us up here.”

According to Darren Stahl, director of capital development and maintenance with YHC, the elevator has been down since March 8. It was out of service for 21 days around Christmas. Before that, it was down for for scheduled maintenance.

“During that time YG did provide, through a contractor, 24-7 security services (to help) with whatever needs they would have up and down the stairs,” he said.

Guards are paid $745 for 24 hours.

Sometimes the job is to carry bags for residents. Other times, Allen-Shevchenko said, guards carry residents on a narrow chair designed to wheel up the stairs, though she also said she has seen residents get off the chair and walk because that option is too difficult.

Stahl said Closeleigh isn’t the only Yukon Housing Corporation building to experience elevator issues. He said 22 Waterfront has gone down once in the last year.

He said the company that does monthly maintenance work is located in the Yukon. Unfortunately, he said three of the last four shutdowns (one at Waterfront Place and two at Closeleigh) have required an engineer. For those, he said Thyssekrupp, the company that holds the contract, has to send someone up from down south.

That takes longer. So does ordering new parts.

He said YG is looking at replacing the elevators in Closeleigh, a 30-year old building, but the cost is around a $250,000. As well, Stahl said, it would mean the elevator would be down for three months. He said YG is trying to come up with a solution.

In the meantime, Les is still hoping for a main floor unit. Blahitka said she received an email from YHC this week saying her parents are on a relocation waitlist and that, with a doctor’s note, they would be considered high priority.

“It could be tomorrow, it could be six months time.… Gotta wait for somebody to kick the bucket. It’s a toss-up whether I go before somebody downstairs goes.”

Pansy, who is just as active as her husband, crocheting blankets and beading moccasins and mitts for sale at the Indian Craft Store, is ready to leave the hospital.

Allen-Shevchenko said Pansy’s doctor said she can’t be discharged until she can make it to the third floor safely.

“She was laying in hospital and she was all groggy and she woke up and she looked at me and she said, ‘This is what I hate about being sick. I’m wasting time sleeping.’ She just wants to go,” Allen-Shevchenko said. “She just wants to move.”

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

elevatorsseniors housingYukon health and social services

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Signs on the main floor elevator in Closeleigh Manor indicate the out-of-order elevator. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

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