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Help wanted: Council on aging seeks workers for home maintenance program

Referral program aims to help seniors stay in their homes
Chris Wheeler, who coordinates the Yukon Council On Aging’s Home and Yard Maintenance Program, is seen outside the council’s office at 4061-b Fourth Avenue in Whitehorse on Sept. 2. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)

The Yukon Council On Aging is not immune to the challenges of the ongoing labour shortage.

The council is working to boost its list of available workers to do home maintenance for seniors through its Home and Yard Maintenance Program.

As Chris Wheeler, the program coordinator, explained in a Sept. 2 interview, there’s about 10 workers on the list that can be referred to the approximately 250 seniors who use the service and it’s anticipated demand for help will increase as soon as snow shovelling season arrives.

The program is designed to help seniors remain in their home.

“When you get older, as we probably are beginning to recognize in our own lives, there are things that become more difficult,” Wheeler said, citing snow shovelling, lawn mowing and window washing among some of the tasks that can become more challenging for some people as they age.

Program clients are able to contact the Yukon Council On Aging as they need to get help with those tasks. Wheeler goes through the list of workers, who must all get an RCMP background check before being added to the list, to find the right person for the job.

The senior pays the worker directly with the base pay being $25 per hour.

As Wheeler explained, workers can outline what they’re able and willing to do to help ensure the right match is made. Some workers, for example, won’t go up ladders so won’t be called on to clean out gutters. Others may want to work outside specifically and are called on for outdoor jobs.

Workers can also specify whether they have their own tools and matches can be made based on that, he said.

As Wheeler pointed out, in many cases clients have the lawn mower, shovel or other needed equipment for a worker to use so those who might be interested in having their name added to the list of workers don’t necessarily need the tools they’ll be working with.

In other cases there might be a need for workers to bring their own tools, in which case Wheeler will match a senior with a worker who has the required equipment for the job.

After a job is done, Wheeler encourages both the senior and worker to check in and let him know how it went.

As Wheeler pointed out, while anyone could seek out a worker for odd jobs on their own, this allows seniors some piece of mind in knowing the Yukon Council On Aging has already done a background check and both the homeowner and worker sign a liability waiver to protect both parties.

Exactly what workers might be called on to do often depends on the season.

“In the spring we’re getting people wanting to get their gardens in, they want to get their lawn started, they want to clean their windows and their eavestroughs,” Wheeler said. “In the summer, it tends to be more maintenance-type items like issues with doors that are sticking or windows that aren’t closing properly.”

Leaky faucets and lawn mowing are also on the to-do list for many clients looking for some extra help through the summer.

Once fall rolls around, it’s back to cleaning eavestroughs and yard work like clearing out garden beds.

“In the winter, it’s all going to be about shovelling and splitting wood,” Wheeler said.

“We’re going to start to have more and more calls about people wanting to have wood split for winter.”

There’s also year-round indoor chores that can come up for homeowners looking for some extra help such as vacuuming, painting, dusting and washing walls as well as minor electrical and carpentry jobs.

Wheeler pointed out it can be a good opportunity for someone to lend a hand while also making a little extra money on the side.

“Your neighbor might need some help,” he said.

“And, you know, if you’re fit, you come home from work and you’re looking for something to do with your evening, you go out to shovel her driveway, and she’s going to really benefit from that and, you know, you’ve got $25 for coffee money.”

Wheeler went on to highlight the obvious health benefits that come with physical labour like snow shovelling and lawn mowing as well as positives of working with the city’s senior population, which Wheeler described as “just awesome people.”

“They’re people that have stayed here into their senior years, so they really are committed to this place and they have a lot of stories to tell from the past.”

While the Yukon Council On Aging maintains a list of about 10 workers, on any given day there’s about three or four available, Wheeler said.

“In the summertime, that’s okay because we can make it work,” he said, pointing to the challenge that comes with many clients through the winter calling to have their driveway shovelled after a snowfall.

“That’s where I need more like 15 or 20 workers [available],” he said, noting his hope more will sign on.

Wheeler is working to touch base with a number of community organizations who may have members interested in being added to the list of available workers.

He would also ultimately like to find a way to also involve youth in the program, although at this point, the need for a criminal record check prohibits those under 18 from signing on as workers.

“That’s the sort of thing that I think teaches kids about responsibility and being part of a community,” he said.

“But I also think that it provides opportunities for those kids to make connections with elders that really can enrich their lives and contribute to their growth and their ties to that where they are.”

Wheeler said he has spoken with the Yukon Council On Aging board about it and it may be something they consider for the future, depending on the logistics.

Those interested in having their names added to the list of workers can contact the Yukon Council On Aging at 867-667-4357.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at

Stephanie Waddell

About the Author: Stephanie Waddell

I joined Black Press in 2019 as a reporter for the Yukon News, becoming editor in February 2023.
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