Lives Well Lived

These care facilities let their residents feel independent and purposeful

 Supporting independence: Silvera Beaverdam offers a family atmosphere and income-adjusted rent rates. Photo courtesy Silvera Beaverdam.

Supporting independence: Silvera Beaverdam offers a family atmosphere and income-adjusted rent rates. Photo courtesy Silvera Beaverdam.

On a quiet, tree-lined street in Calgary’s southeast neighbourhood of Ogden sits Silvera Beaverdam, a residential community for seniors. One of 25 Silvera for Seniors communities across Calgary’s four quadrants, this is the only one for individuals with dementia.

Silvera Beaverdam has been operating since the early 1970s; it became a memory care-specific facility in 2011, says Fred Burrill, one of three regional managers for Silvera. And with its unique, lodge-style funding model, it offers care specifically to low-income seniors. 

“Silvera Beaverdam is a lodge that’s owned by the Government of Alberta, and it’s been operated by Silvera since opening,” Burrill explains. “We operate on a rent-geared-to-income revenue model, meaning neighbours might have different rents.”

The care facility offers a base rent of $1,248 per month, and is currently home to 58 individuals with dementia. There are also cottages at Silvera Beaverdam for “independent living” seniors without memory issues. Altogether, Silvera Beaverdam is home to just under 100 seniors.

I visit often and I see the staff participating with the residents—they get involved and they joke with them like they’re family members.

There’s one staff member for every three residents, creating a close-knit environment—one that Wayne Smith (not his real name) says makes Silvera Beaverdam feel like home for his mother, who has lived there for almost six years.

“I visit often and I see the staff participating with the residents—they get involved and they joke with them like they’re family members,” Smith says. 

Here, residents’ independence is supported. Couples can live together in a unit and residents are free to walk outside around the facility—and even outside of the building.

“This is not a locked facility,” says Jane Van Santen, the community manager at Silvera Beaverdam. “The lodge is a one-storey building that has three wings, and at the end of each wing there’s a fenced-in patio so even those who aren’t able to go walking on their own are able to spend some time outside.”  

Located across the road from two schools, Silvera Beaverdam also works to form meaningful connections between residents and members of the community. Linda Lee’s father is a Silvera Beaverdam resident who benefits from the intergenerational friendships that are fostered here. 

“Jane arranges frequent visits from schoolchildren. Last Christmas they had a wonderful party for the residents where the kids gave personalized gifts to everyone. Dad was thrilled, even though he did not remember the details,” says Lee, adding that this is just one example of how Silvera Beaverdam goes the extra mile to support its residents.

 An artist’s rendering of The Village, a lifestyle-focused dementia care facility in Langley, B.C., being readied to open in June of 2019.Illustration courtesy The Village.

An artist’s rendering of The Village, a lifestyle-focused dementia care facility in Langley, B.C., being readied to open in June of 2019.Illustration courtesy The Village.

Encouraging Socialization

Across the Rocky Mountains in B.C.’s Lower Mainland is the site of a soon-to-open care facility for seniors. It’s currently under construction, but when it opens in June 2019, The Village will not look or operate like any other facility in Canada.

The Village is located on 2.8 hectares of land in Langley, B.C. It will include a barn with animals, vegetable and flower gardens and a bustling community centre that will act as the facility’s town square, complete with a grocery store, a hair salon, recreation facilities and a café.

This is Canada’s first dementia village, a private care centre that’s been the dream of Elroy Jespersen, the facility’s project lead, for a long time. Jespersen has worked in the seniors’ living business since 1989, and was deeply inspired by care environments like Hogeweyk in the Netherlands, the first dementia village in the world.

Jespersen wanted to create a better care environment for seniors in Canada—one where they can live the life they choose.

The facility’s design will encourage independence and socialization. There are six single-storey cottages that each house up to 13 individuals.

Each resident or couple gets a private bedroom and washroom, with a kitchen, dining room, living room and family room shared between housemates. This design encourages togetherness and prevents isolation—there will be family-style dining, shared household responsibilities and perhaps even pets.

Residents can come and go as they please, walking out the front door to experience all the facility offers. 

Helped by a 2.5-metre fence around the property’s perimeter designed to blend into the natural surroundings, on-site staff will support residents and ensure their safety.

Karen Tyrell, founder of Personalized Dementia Solutions Inc., a business that educates caregivers on compassionate dementia care techniques, was contracted to help with the design of The Village. She says there will be specially trained staff to support residents’ day-to-day life.  

“There will be nurses and care aides, and we’re having a homemaker in each household,” Tyrell says. “Each homemaker will learn how to engage the residents in daily living. It’s the residents’ home and the homemaker will allow them to take part as much as possible.” 

When The Village opens, it will have a total capacity of 78. The financial details are still being worked out, but Jespersen says fees will likely be between $6,000 and $7,500 a month.

While The Village doesn’t have any permanent residents yet, plenty of interest has been expressed. For example, Myrna Norman of Maple Ridge, B.C., who has early symptoms of dementia, is excited about this new style of facility.

When she saw its plans, Norman said it was better than anything she’d ever seen before—it made her want to cry happy tears. Already, Norman is imagining herself and her husband walking their dog around the property, visiting the barn and just enjoying being outside.

“In my mind, The Village allows people to not just exist, but to live,” she says. “And that makes us feel purposeful.”  [