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Government provides update on action plan to help older Yukoners age in place

“To be removed from family, friends can be heartbreaking and life-shortening.”
Liberal minister Tracy-Anne McPhee stands in the legislature following a vote on a motion asking her to resign from cabinet on Oct. 27. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

The Yukon government released its progress report on March 28 for new actions to help seniors and elders age in place around the territory.

“Although we have made significant progress to help ensure seniors and elders can age comfortably in the territory, there is still plenty of work underway,” said Health Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee.

“Seniors and elders in our community helped shape this territory that we live in today, and they deserve to age in a way where they feel valued, supported, respected, and loved,” she said.

The report released this week says around half of the recommended actions are complete or underway as of September 2021, a full year after the action plan was released.

The other half of the recommendations are under planning or have not started.

There are seven “action items” that have been completed so far. These include establishing a Seniors’ Advisory Committee, continuing infection control practices in long-term care facilities, introducing a new rural end-of-life care fund, revised support for medical travel and an evaluation of adult protection services.

The government has also introduced a Shine a Light on Dementia training program and opened the Wind River Hospice at Whistle Bend Place.

The report admits that COVID-19 has pushed back some timelines on action items. In particular, there is still work to be started on transportation goals and support for caregivers.

McPhee noted that the Handy Bus services, with increased funding, is now being offered seven days a week in Whitehorse. Other outstanding goals include working with partners, including First Nations, NGOs and municipalities to make the territory more accessible.

A review of social supports for seniors, including income support, is being planned.

McPhee thanked Seniors Action Yukon, Council of Yukon First Nations, Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation, the Yukon Council on Aging, St. Elias Seniors Society, Association of Yukon Communities, and the Association franco-yukonnaise for their contributions.

In response to a ministerial statement, both the NDP and Yukon Party acknowledged progress but said more needs to be done, and quickly, to help aging residents of rural communities.

“The plan speaks to keeping Yukoners in their home communities, but a lot more needs to be done to realize those goals,” said Brad Cathers.

Cathers said Watson Lake residents need a seniors residence. The St. Elias Seniors Socieyt in Haines Junction is waiting on a meeting place. He noted that even in Whitehorse, the new Whistle Bend Place facility in nearing capacity.

Vuntut Gwitchin MLA Annie Blake shared that outside of Whitehorse, there are fewer options for aging seniors. The last resort – relocating outside their home communities – can be traumatic.

“For seniors and elders requiring more supports than the community can offer, too often, their only solution is to move into continuing care in Whitehorse, leaving their family and their community behind,” she said.

“To be removed from family, friends, and all that is familiar to them can be heartbreaking and life-shortening. Imagine the elder from Old Crow moving into the new Whistle Bend Place. It is a great facility, but for the elder from Old Crow, it is like landing in the middle of Toronto and being told to make yourself at home — talk about culture shock,” she said.

A new elders complex is currently under construction in Old Crow.

“Aging in place needs to be a priority for all elders and seniors in Whitehorse and in all Yukon communities,” she said.

Contact Haley Ritchie at