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Heritage Community Foundation Presents
Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Feature Article


Written By: Michael Dawe
Published By: Red Deer Advocate Centennial Book
Article Used with permission. © Copyright Michael Dawe and the Red Deer Advocate, 2007

Red Deer home to first senior citizens\

Given the priority that is now often given to the provision of services and housing for seniors, it is hard to realize that it was only 50 years ago, here in Red Deer, that the first seniors lodge in Alberta and possibly in Canada, was built.

In the early years of the last century, care of the elderly and the chronically ill was generally a family affair.

Those in need were taken care of at home by other members of the family to the best of their abilities.

There were a few private nursing homes, but they were expensive.

The situation began to significantly change in the years following the Second World War.

People were living much longer.

Families found it increasingly difficult to provide adequate care at home.

It was becoming obvious that a better system to care for the elderly was needed.

In 1951, the Red Deer Kiwanis Club was chartered and set, as one of the first objectives in the club, support for seniors.

In 1952-53, the club came up with the idea of creating low-cost rental accommodations for seniors in the community.

With the co-operation of the City of Red Deer, six acres of land were acquired from Hugh Bower on the South Hill.

A loan was secured from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC), with the Kiwanis Club committed to raising the balance.

In November 1953, the Twilight Homes foundation, a non-profit society, was created by the Kiwanis Club to lead its initiative.

In June 1954, work began on a set of cottages that would provide housing for 16 senior couples.

Shortly thereafter, the Kiwanis Club and Twilight Homes Foundation launched a fundraising drive to construct an adjacent lodge to house 40 individual seniors.

There was to be some support services for these seniors with central kitchen, dining and recreation facilities, but it was not planned to provide nursing care.

Because the lodge concept was such a new and innovative one, there were no provincial government grants for such a project.

However, the provincial government was so taken with the proposal that government regulations were amended to allow up to on-third of the cost of a lodge to be provided by means of a provincial grant.

In June 1955, Premier Ernest Manning presided at the so-turning ceremony for the lodge, yet another indication of the great importance the government placed on the project.

In his speech, Premier Manning described the lodge as “not a charitable institution, but one where the elderly folk would have a place to live at an expense within their budget.”

He added that there was “a personal touch in such a home that would not be found in state institutions.”

Addition assistance to the project came in the form of a $75,000 loan that was secured by the City of Red Deer.

The city consequently retained ownership or the land and building, but made a lease agreement with the foundation to operate the facility.

Operation costs for the lodge were to come from a $100 admission fee and monthly charges of $75 per month for single rooms and $65 per month per resident for double rooms.

For those who had trouble meeting these charges, it was the responsibility of the home city or municipality to cover the difference, with the provincial government providing a 60 per cent reimbursement under a seniors assistance program.

The official opening of the Twilight Lodge took place on May 18, 1956.

Premier Manning and other provincial cabinet ministers participated in the ceremonies. Moreover, the province arranged to have the event televised.

The Twilight Lodge proved to be very popular and was soon filled to capacity.

Consequently, there was a great deal of construction of more seniors’ housing by the Twilight Homes Foundation and others over the following years.

Thus, Red Deer has continued to be a provincial and national leader in the provision of seniors’ housing.

This article was written by Michael Dawe for the Red Deer Advocate’s Centennial Book. The Heritage Community Foundation would like to thank Michael Dawe and the Red Deer Advocate for permission to reprint these materials online. Please visit the Red Deer Advocate online.The images in the article are part of the collection of the Red Deer Archives. Please visit them online.

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