It was Wednesday afternoon and a group of St. Elias Seniors gathered in the village’s weigh station-cum-senior’s clubhouse off of the Alaska Highway.
A sign on the front door pronounced the meeting off limits to any “children” under 55.
The group hosts a drop-in for seniors and elders once a week in the summer, more in the winter.
They tell stories and jokes and play games, like pool and shuffleboard, and they “try to stick to the truth,” said club member Norm Bastien with a smile.
In between bites of cake and sips of coffee, they talked about the new seniors facility that the government is building in Haines Junction.
When asked if it’s something the community needs almost everyone, out of the group of 10, nodded their heads, “yes.”
Marion Wakefield, 84, a senior who hangs out at the clubhouse, moved to the Junction five years ago to be with her daughter and son-in-law.
She lives independently and doesn’t need to move into the new facility right now, but hopes one day there will be space for her there.
“That’s why we need this place, there may be more who want to bring their parents up,” she said.
With about 50 per cent of the population over 50, the new facility will be a step in promoting Haines Junction as a retirement community, said Haines Junction mayor John Farynowski.
So far, the territorial government has done well extending the hours homecare is available in the community, he said.
But this facility, which will be open to seniors and elders from all over the Kluane region, is the next step.
“The facility will be full from the day it opens,” he added.
“We’ve put a lot of pressure on the government to build the complex.
“Anybody elected wouldn’t dare stop it now — I’ve offered to rent a bus and drive all the seniors down to the government administration building to protest,” said Farynowski.
To date, eight non-First Nations seniors and five elders have shown interest in moving in to the facility’s six suites, said seniors club co-ordinator Patty Moore.
The facility, just a razed lot right now, is planning to open its doors by sometime next summer.
It will include six suites, which will each have a living room and small kitchen, common areas and a small, commercial kitchen in the basement where the seniors can operate a ‘meals on wheels’ program for others in the community.
Generous storage closets, entry systems and complete barrier-free design are in the building’s blueprints, according to a release.
It will be located near the village’s health centre and, although there will be no medical staff on site, homecare workers can come into the facility to help seniors with any needs they have.
Funding for the $1.8-million facility is provided under the Canada-Yukon Affordable Housing Program Agreement.
Apparently, rents will be set at around $700 a month, which matters when you’re a senior on a fixed income, said Moore.
The board has not made a final decision on rents or how residents will be chosen for the complex, said Yukon Housing Corp. spokesperson Doug Caldwell, who refused to put The News in contact with anybody from the corporation.
There is space to expand the complex, but the government is concentrating on building this first phase, said Caldwell.