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Passionate seniors advocate leaving Yk
CEO of Avens leaving for personal reasons after three years on job; says government and citizens must do more for elderly

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Monday, August 3, 2015

Senior citizens in Yellowknife and across the Northwest Territories are losing one of their most vocal, passionate and outspoken advocates.

NNSL photo/graphic

Jeff Renaud, Avens Centre's CEO for the past three years, has announced he is resigning to return to Ontario to be with his parents. He is leaving confident he has done his part to help seniors but says the government and the community at large must do more to support elders in the NWT. - John McFadden/NNSL photo

After three years as chief executive officer of Avens - A Community for Seniors, Jeff Renaud has announced he's leaving the position and Yellowknife to head home to southern Ontario. Renaud said he is leaving for personal reasons - he wants to be closer to his parents. The married father said that his final day is Sept. 24, coinciding with Avens' annual general meeting.

He said despite the challenges and frustrations he's encountered on the job, he's leaving confident he made a positive difference.

"What I am most proud of is that we've created a greater awareness of the need for seniors' infrastructure in Yellowknife. We've enhanced the level of service we provide for seniors," Renaud said.

Renaud made it clear that he is leaving for strictly personal reasons but at the same time, before he left, he wanted to make sure his voice was heard on the issues facing seniors in the city and the territory.

"We have an aging population and we have limited financial ability to provide the level of care that all elders should get across the NWT. We just don't have the clinical skill-set at a government level that knows how to build an integrated health-care system," Renaud said. "Everybody wants a long-term care facility in their backyard but it's not going to happen."

The seniors' population is projected to grow more than three hundred per cent over the next ten years yet there are only 29 long-term beds to support a population of 19,000 people, which is bad and unheard of, Renaud said.

"We're contracted by the government of the NWT to deliver long-term care in a not-for-profit setting," Renaud said. The facility is essentially dead in the water when it comes to its ambitious expansion plans, said Renaud, because there is no commitment from the GNWT to support the project. He thinks the territorial government needs to get its priorities straight when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars.

"Talking about supporting the Canada Winter Games in 2023 (in Yellowknife) does nothing for seniors today," Renaud said. "It's heartbreaking that seniors who have basically built Yellowknife and the NWT are elders and it's shameful behaviour that we're not supporting them."

But Renaud stressed that it's not just a government responsibility to look after seniors - it's everybody's.

"It is the unethical treatment of seniors and it is gross negligence to not provide them the support that they need now," Renaud said.

He doesn't think the issue is all that complicated and said that the golden rule must apply: We are all going to be old someday so we need to treat our seniors now they way we will want to be treated when we get there.

Gord Van Tighem, president of the board at Avens, said the facility was greatly enhanced by Renaud's business savvy as well as his clinical knowledge.

"He is a professional manager as well as a gerontologist who introduced some of the national standards to Avens," Van Tighem said. "He added professionalism. Avens is a family, that hasn't changed, but it has been upgraded."

Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley, who speaks regularly in the legislative assembly on behalf of seniors, described Renaud as a visionary.

"Jeff was able to see the desperate need for additional facilities for our elderly and to accurately predict the crisis situation now looming in Yellowknife and the NWT ... he brought an understanding of the urgency we face," Bromley said. "He has undoubtedly been frustrated by slow progress in the face of this reality. I understand his need to attend to family priorities, but I am sad to see him go and greatly appreciate his past willingness to answer questions and provide information to help me and other Yellowknife MLAs increase our understanding of the issues that must be confronted to responsibly serve our elders."

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