Younger resident living her best life at Silvera community

31 July 2023

Finding housing is difficult for many people these days, and it can be even harder for people with mobility issues.

That’s why Shawna Henderson, who uses a wheelchair, was thankful to move into an accessible suite at Westview Residence West last fall.

“Finding an accessible place to live is not easy, particularly if you don’t have income limits,” she says.

Shawna works full-time as a unit clerk on the Tertiary Neuro Rehabilitation Unit at the Foothills Hospital, and her income meant she didn’t qualify for subsidized housing. “It’s a unique situation to be in, as it seems that many accessible units are developed for individuals who may not have a regular income.”

Shawna has cerebral palsy. Over the past decade, she has needed to use a wheelchair more and more, and now uses the chair almost exclusively. “If I didn’t use a wheelchair, I would have had to stop working because I become so fatigued. My body is just getting worn out,” she says.

Her previous living situation was in an older downtown apartment that was not designed for wheelchairs. “The bathroom wasn’t accessible, and the elevator often didn’t work. Sometimes I had to use crutches and go down the stairs when the elevator was broken. I knew it was finally time to move.”

Except that finding an apartment was a challenge. She called about many units that were already rented, not fully accessible or had income limits. She posted about her plight on Facebook, and her friend, who works for Silvera, suggested she check out Westview Residence West.

“At 57, I’m definitely a bit younger than most Silvera residents, but I haven’t found it difficult being in a building with older people,” Shawna says. “There’s an active social committee here and if I’m not working, I like to join in activities. I have an outgoing personality so it’s easy to strike up conversations with other residents.”

WVRW residents can buy meals at neighbouring Westview Town Suites. Although Shawna hasn’t yet used that option, “it’s nice to be able to access meals, particularly if my mobility isn’t great for a day or two,” she says.

Shawna’s suite has a “wonderful layout” with wide doorways, lots of cupboard space, and lower cabinets that allow her to access her food and cooking equipment. The door to her wall oven opens out like a microwave, and there are grab bars in the walk-in shower that help her maneuver around her large bathroom. Her suite also contains a combination washer dryer that allows her to do laundry more easily.

“It’s such a beautiful building, and they have done a really good job of accessibility here,” she says.

Shawna also enjoys having access to Silvera’s affordable housekeeping team at Westview Town Suites. “Cleaning is very tiring for me, and it can be difficult to do a good job of it myself from my wheelchair, so I really am glad for the housekeeping option.”

Shawna says she plans to be in her WVRW suite for a long time, and it’s nice to know that when she retires, she can take part of the things happening in the building.

“I’ve learned that you do have to take advantage of what’s available and put yourself out there a little bit – they’re not going to come find you!” she says. “I would encourage anyone looking for a community that this is a great place to be.”