The Alberta government will be spending $3.3 million over the next three years to support seniors fleeing elder abuse. “This funding will provide $2.2 million to establish a new Safe Spaces Program for seniors experiencing elder abuse in rural Alberta and indigenous communities to ensure there are safe, accessible spaces for them to go in rural Alberta and indigenous communities,” said Alberta Seniors, Community and Social Services Minister Jason Nixon at a Monday press conference. “The Safe Spaces Program will utilize vacant lodge spaces to expand shelter capacity for seniors fleeing abuse.” In partnership with the Alberta Elder Abuse Awareness Council, Nixon said grant funding will be available to eligible rural and indigenous communities, with calls for proposals starting in January. He added the remaining $1.1 million will go towards Sage Seniors Safe House to expand the number of spaces it provides to seniors fleeing abuse in Edmonton. This funding adds to the $7.4 million in the Alberta government’s budget to address elder abuse by funding shelters in Edmonton and Calgary and its awareness programs. It will spend $9.3 billion on seniors across Alberta. Nixon acknowledged Alberta is experiencing affordability challenges affecting all people. That is why the government is spending $5.1 billion in affordability payments to help people facing these challenges, especially seniors on fixed incomes. Sage Seniors Association Director of Operations Bernice Sewell thanked Nixon and the Alberta government for their leadership and support. “This investment speaks to that commitment and is the reason that Alberta is a leader in Canada for preventing and addressing elder abuse and prioritizes the safety and well-being of seniors,” said Sewell. “Your investment in the community and responsiveness to the needs of the community have played a critical role in ensuring older adults are able to continue to build and enrich our province.” For more than 20 years, Sewell said elderly people experiencing abuse and exploitation have been supported by Sage Seniors Safe House staff. In addition to providing temporary housing, seniors receive assistance with areas of their lives impacted by abuse. Unison President and CEO Larry Mathieson said his organization “has always viewed Alberta as being progressive and innovative in the elder abuse response area.” “We’re very excited that this announcement will mean a 40% increase in the beds at Kerby Centre in Calgary,” said Mathieson. “In addition, it will fund two outreach case workers, which mean many seniors who might have needed an elder abuse bed may be diverted to another safe space.” Unison works in Medicine Hat, AB, and surrounding rural areas. With the Safe Spaces model, he said it is responsive, progressive and cost-effective, which is important in building a network. Nixon followed up by saying rural Alberta is underrepresented in seniors having places to go. “It’s an area where certainly we see the solutions are underrepresented in rural Alberta,” he said. “Calgary and Edmonton have a lot of capacity that has already been built by the excellent organizations that are here today in partnership with the Alberta government.” When it comes to rural Alberta, he called it “vast and obviously, we don’t need the same level of facility size.” What it does need to do is help people in these circumstances. Alberta Premier Danielle Smith pledged to cut costs for seniors by 25% for all government services to increase affordability and reduce the cost of living in May. READ MORE: Smith proposes ‘25% seniors discounts’ for government servicesSmith said the discount would apply to all personal registry services, camping fees and driver’s medical exams. “That means when seniors go to their local registry to have personal services like their driver's licence or vehicle registration renewed, take a road test, get title certificates or birth certificates, those fees will be 25% cheaper,” she said.