New Brunswick

Seniors in 5-storey building left without elevator for weeks while part is custom-made

A five-storey, 74-unit retirement and assisted-living building in Riverview is without its only elevator, leaving those with mobility issues stranded in their apartments.

Operators of Lakeview Tower in Riverview say elevator is down until mid-June

The only elevator at Lakeview Tower has been out of service for a month. The operators say it won't be working again until mid-June. (Anne Cymbala)

Riverview resident Norma Dixon says life without an elevator has been pretty difficult. 

Living on the fourth floor, the 81-year-old has been trying to limit the number of times she leaves her Lakeview Tower apartment since the elevator was taken out of service a month ago.

"One week I had to go out four days in a row. It was pretty bad," said Dixon. 

She has trouble with her left leg, so going up and down four flights of stairs has been really difficult. 

Building personnel have put chairs on every landing to allow residents to rest along the way. Dixon said she makes use of the chairs — every single one of them — to catch her breath.

"If I was on the fifth floor, I don't know how I could do it," she said. 

To hold them captive like that is hard.- Cecile Cassista

Lakeview Tower is a five-storey, 74-unit retirement and assisted-living building whose residents are into their 90s. 

Most residents contacted by CBC News were afraid to speak out publicly about the difficulties they're experiencing for fear of being evicted. 

Dixon said she believes staff are doing the best they can. She said they've been helping residents carry groceries and other items to their apartments, and they've offered free laundry service, including pickup and delivery, so residents don't have to travel downstairs to the first-floor laundry room. 

Paul Hanscomb, vice-president of residential operations for the management company APHL, said staff are doing whatever they can to help residents. He said the laundry is taken to their off-site commercial facility and professionally cleaned. 

Those who have opted-in to the building's meal plan have their meals delivered to their apartments. 

Hanscomb said the activities co-ordinator is also taking her service to the residents. For example, he said individual floors have held "hallway" bingo games with residents physically distanced in their own doorways. 

He said the problem with the elevator was discovered during a routine inspection last month. But the broken part, a cylinder jack, isn't something that elevator maintenance companies normally have in stock. It has to be custom made. 

The company doing the work has said the elevator should be operational again by June 14. In the meantime, Hanscomb said, it is completing all of the prep work so that when the part is ready, it can be installed as quickly as possible. 

Safety concerns raised 

The executive director of a seniors' rights group said she is very concerned about the residents' physical safety and mental well-being. 

Cecile Cassista of the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents' Rights said the last thing elderly residents need, after all of the pandemic-related restriction, is more social isolation. 

"To hold them captive like that is hard [on them]." 

Cecile Cassista, the executive director of the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents’ Rights, said some residents of Lakeview Tower are 'captive' in their apartments because the building's only elevator is out of service. (Submitted by Cecile Cassista)

She said she has spoken with several residents with mobility issues who worry about how they'll get down four or five flights of stairs in an emergency. 

Cassista said it's great that the operators are delivering meals and carrying groceries, but worries about how the loss of independence will affect the mental health of the residents. 

"We've got to keep in mind that the aging population are very independent. They'd like to do things on their own. And so to rely on other sources — that's just not what they're made from."

Cassista also wonders about the safety implications of having the building's only elevator out of service. She worries what would happen if there was a fire in the building. 

She said a building that houses so many older people with mobility issues should not rely on a single elevator.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mia Urquhart is a CBC reporter based in Saint John. She can be reached at mia.urquhart@cbc.ca.

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