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Old Crow welcomes opening of first assisted-living facility for elders

No longer will Vuntut Gwitchin elders have to move south to access assisted-living support
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Vuntut Gwichin First Nation Chief Pauline Frost speaks to attendees at the opening ceremony of the Victoria Blake Memorial Elders Home in Old Crow on May 19. (Courtesy/Atsushi Sugimoto)

Old Crow’s first assisted-living complex for elders opened its doors on May 19, an occasion marked by a community ceremony.

The opening of the facility, dubbed the Victoria Blake Memorial Elders Home, was jointly announced by the governments of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, the Yukon and Canada.

The complex has eight single-bedroom assisted-living units, one unit for a live-in caregiver, a kitchen and a laundry room.

According to a media release, it also boasts a sizable indoor community room for family gatherings and activities and will be used as a Gwitchin language hub.

The facility’s opening means that the area’s elders will no longer have to move to Whitehorse to access personal care services. Local elders can now remain a part of their community, and Vuntut Gwitchin residents can continue learning from their older generations.

“For millennia, our people have depended on the knowledge and guidance of our elders to survive and thrive in our Gwich’in homeland. We have enjoyed their presence among us, just as our elders have experienced the joys of seeing new generations of children and youth growing up in the community,” Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Chief Pauline Frost said in the press release.

“Ch’anjòo goozheh Victoria Blake voozrì’ zhìt nitr’inii’aii, vanagwaandaii eenjit — the Victoria Blake Elders Home — will make it possible for our elders to receive the care they need while remaining with our fly-in Arctic community.”

The Victoria Blake Memorial Elders Home in Old Crow. (Courtesy/Atsushi Sugimoto)
The Victoria Blake Memorial Elders Home in Old Crow. (Courtesy/Atsushi Sugimoto)

The name of the complex pays homage to Victoria Blake, an elder whose cabin previously occupied the site of the new facility. Her homestead was moved to make space for development after she relocated to Whitehorse to receive assisted living care.

“It is fitting to name the new building in her memory because had the facility been built earlier, it would have enabled her to live longer in her home community,” Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation communications manager Gyde Shepherd told the News.

Attendees at the opening ceremony of the Victoria Blake Memorial Elders Home. (Courtesy/Atsushi Sugimoto)
Attendees at the opening ceremony of the Victoria Blake Memorial Elders Home. (Courtesy/Atsushi Sugimoto)

Construction of the Victoria Blake Memorial Elders Home was completed with a $9 million investment from the Canadian government, $3 million from the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and $1.7 million from Indigenous Services Canada.

“Through this investment, we are ensuring that elders in Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation receive the care that they need, while enabling them to continue passing down their traditional knowledge to youth in the community,” Yukon MP Brendan Hanley said.

Contact Matthew Bossons at matthew.bossons@yukon-news.com