Nfld. & Labrador

Students create plan for seniors' housing in western Labrador

After investigating different options, the students are advocating for a 30-bed seniors' home.

It includes blueprint, scale model of a 30-bed home for Tanya Lake area

The grades 5 and 6 students at J.R. Smallwood Elementary School have created the blueprint, land map and scale model for a 30-bed seniors' housing complex in the Tanya Lake area. (Submitted by Kayla Snow)

Brayden Clarke is only in Grade 5 at J.R. Smallwood Middle School in Wabush, but he's seen first-hand the need for seniors' housing in western Labrador — and he's trying to help design a solution.

"My pop passed away waiting for a bed in long-term care at the hospital here because he didn't want to leave Lab West," Clarke said.

It's a longstanding issue in the region, where there are no retirement homes or long-term care homes, leaving some families worried about seniors potentially being moved out of Lab West

So Brayden and his fellow students created a plan for a 30-bed complex to house seniors needing assisted living or long-term care.

The planning started in September, when teachers Kayla Snow and Alice Peddle wanted to engage their students in something that would be meaningful to them.

"Many of the students in this class have a personal connection with the fact that unfortunately, in Labrador West, there is no seniors' living facility. And so for some of them, it means their grandparents either have to live in the hospital or sometimes have had to be sent away," Peddle said. 

The class took a field trip to three large locations around Labrador West and decided a location in the Tanya Lake would be best for seniors and their families. (Submitted by Kayla Snow)

Peddle and Snow hoped by doing a project about it, the students would learn about seniors' living, talk to community members and politicians, and potentially make a difference. 

The students researched different types of seniors' homes before deciding a 30-bed L-shaped building — one side for long-term care and the other side for assisted living.

"We took a field trip to three large areas in our town. We brought rolling tape measures and clipboards and surveyed the land to ensure there was enough space for the building," said Grade 6 student Mathew Perrier.

"We felt the Tanya Lake area would be a great place," Perrier said. "There is a walking trail there for the residents to enjoy and a wonderful view of the lake."

The students looked at other seniors' housing facilities in Newfoundland and Labrador and throughout Canada. The class then created a blueprint showing where the facility would be located, laying out 30 rooms: 10 double rooms for couples and 20 single rooms for residents. (Submitted by Kayla Snow)

It's also close to the local hospital in case of emergencies. 

The students created a blueprint which includes 10 double rooms for couples and 20 single rooms for residents, and then started shopping it around to politicians. 

The class presented it to the local councils of Labrador City and Wabush, Labrador West MHA Jordan Brown, Labrador Affairs Minister Lisa Dempster, and Seniors Minister John Abbott.

Nevaeh Gray, a Grade 5 student, said the meetings were insightful and Brown told the class he was going to bring up their concerns when the House of Assembly reconvenes on Tuesday.

The students said they felt heard by the two ministers as well. 

"These big people and like the government and the town, they heard us and they answered our questions, and they kind of promised us that they would take this into consideration," said Lindsay Pike, who's in Grade 6.

The class also submitted a proposal for the 2022 provincial budget to both Finance Minister Siobhan Coady and on the EngageNL website.

Teachers Kayla Snow and Alice Peddle say they wanted to engage their students in something that would be meaningful to them. (Submitted by Kayla Snow)

"Together as a class, we wrote a letter kind of explaining the project, explaining the situation here in Labrador West," Peddle said. "The students did receive an email back saying that their letter was received and it would be put into consideration."

Grade 6 student Johnathan Ralph said they hope their voices are heard and their project will inspire the province to act. 

"I hope for the future that this senior home does happen," Ralph said.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Heidi Atter

Mobile Journalist

Heidi Atter is a journalist working in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador. She started with CBC Saskatchewan after a successful internship and has a passion for character-driven stories. Heidi moved to Labrador in August 2021. She has worked as a reporter, web writer, associate producer and show director, and has worked in Edmonton, at the Wainwright military base, and in Adazi, Latvia. Story ideas? Email heidi.atter@cbc.ca.

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