New group a voice for seniors in community

Jodi
Jodi Schellenberg
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The Prince Albert Seniors’ Advocacy Centre is the hero seniors in the city have been looking for.

John Fryters, a well known figure in the community through his ministry and volunteerism, started up the Prince Albert Seniors’ Advocacy Centre after dealing with his own problems in the system.

The group, which was started at the beginning of May, is to give seniors a place to go when they need help accessing services in the community or within the province, said program leader Allison Marcotte.

Instead of seniors having to call a variety of places to find answers, they simply have to call the advocacy centre.

John Fryters, who is well known in the community as both a minister and volunteer, started the group after noticing problems with finding answers when dealing with his own hearing loss.

“He thought it was hard to find the information out there and it would be nice if there was one place that you could go to,” Marcotte said.

When he was about 52, Fryters started to lose his hearing but was in denial. After he had a heart attack, he noticed the hearing loss more and went to an audiologist where he was told he needed hearing aids.

“I am very low income because I’ve been in Christian ministry my whole life and then I find out I am going to have to pay like $7,000 for two hearing aids,” Fryters said. “Where am I going to get $7,000? Is there any assistance available? Zero … zero assistance available.”

He has since spent $21,000 on hearing aids and thought there had to be a way to help him pay for the devices.

When he went in to do his income tax the one year, Fryters asked his accountant if there was a way to get help. His accountant told him about disability pension but warned him that not many people actually receive it.

Fryters was determined to get help, so he applied and his application was turned down.

“Normal seniors if you would … be turned down, what you would do is resign yourself to the fact that the government turned you down and there is nothing that can be done about it,” Fryters said. “I’m a scraper and I’m an advocate for myself. I take control over my life.”

After being rejected, Fryters went to the Hard of Hearing Society in Saskatoon, since there is no office in Prince Albert, which made him feel better when he heard statistics on hearing loss.

Fryters then had new audiology tests done, went to his doctor and was approved for the disability pension.

“I needed the advocacy,” Fryters said. “The government has all these programs but they are not being accessed because nobody is advocating on behalf of people.”

The Prince Albert Advocacy Centre hopes to be that connection for seniors, to help them find the right channels to go through and get the help they need so they don’t have to jump through hoops.

Fryters was trying to get the group off the ground for a few years and is finally able to with the help of the Jubilation Program and the Métis Local 269.

Since the amount of seniors in the community will be about 27 per cent of the population by 2020, Fryters and Marcotte said they will need help dealing with a number of issues such as housing, health, elder abuse, home care and many others.

“Obviously there are services in the community that people can rely upon but there is nothing specifically there to help seniors in that way except maybe some of the seniors groups in churches,” Fryters said.

They would like to see seniors start banding together and being politically active to make a difference and make it easier to get services.

“I think this will get off the ground and I think it will become a mainstay social agency in town and that’s my goal,” Fryters said. “People are already looking for it. I think it is an exciting thing, I think it is a good thing.”

Although she is not a senior, Marcotte said she understands their frustration with the system.

“You call one place and they say, ‘Oh no, that’s not us, you call so and so,’” she said. “As a senior it gets even harder so you think what is the point and forget it.”

As project leader, she is starting to build up a resource for seniors, dealing with new issues as they arise. Although she might not have all the issues now, Marcotte is confident she will be able to help others.

“I’m looking forward to people being able to find information and having easy accessible information because I know how frustrating it is trying to call organizations and getting the run around,” Marcotte said. “It would be nice to have an information pool that it is easy for people to get information and just make life easier for the older people.”

The group has an office at Parkland Hall but there are no set hours and are currently available by appointment only. Those wanting to set up an appointment can call 306-981-2564 or email at paseniors@yahoo.com.

“If you don’t have the answer call because we don’t have set parameters that we will only help people with this situation or that situation,” Marcotte said. “If you are a senior in need of advocacy and don’t know where to turn then call our number.”

Organizations: Prince Albert, Christian ministry, Hearing Society

Geographic location: Saskatoon

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