Creating a community for seniors in Sundre

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The construction of a three-storey $26.6-million seniors’ living facility in Sundre is on budget and slightly ahead of schedule, say officials.

The idea behind the Sundre Seniors’ Supportive Living Facility — made possible by the efforts of Mountain View Seniors’ Housing (MVSH) following a clear call from the community to have such an amenity — is to create a community for seniors, said Sam Smalldon, MVSH chief administrative officer.

“It was community driven,” Smalldon told the Gazette during a recent tour of the nearly completed facility.

“This is the result of the community, and I have to say all the municipalities shared the risk, all the municipalities supported this, and they worked together. This is what I say can happen if everybody works together for a good idea — it’s a good project.”

Mountain View County, the towns of Sundre, Olds, Didsbury and Carstairs, as well as the Village of Cremona, all supported the project, he said, adding that MVSH, a not-for-profit organization established in 1960, represents the entire county.

The 104-unit building, which boasts a park-like courtyard, was designed to leave open the option to expand should growth in the future justify enlarging the facility, which sits on an eight-acre property, he said.

“We have three housing options for seniors,” he said.

The facility offers 18 independent units, also known as life lease, and 46 lodge living type rooms, as well as an additional 40 full-time care units. The new seniors’ community complex is replacing the existing Foothills Lodge, which only provides a lodge unit option, he said, adding there was no 24-7 care available in the community before.

So the new facility is not only replacing the Foothills Lodge but it is also adding two housing options, he said.

“We believe that reflects the continuum from independent to a higher level of care — it fills that gap for Sundre so people can stay in the community, and it’s all together under one roof on one site,” he said.

As of the week of Feb. 1, 60 per cent of the life lease units — or 11 out of 18 — had already been sold. Those units offer residents community combined with independence, he said.

“A lot of people have waited until the building is done,” he said.

Construction, which got started following a groundbreaking ceremony in October 2014, is coming along well. The facility is nearing completion, and is expected to open about a month earlier than anticipated.

By the end of February, MVSH will get the keys as the facility’s owners. At that point, the bulk of the work will be finished and it will be a matter of completing finishing touches like painting and flooring, as well as ensuring everything is in working order, he said.

“We’re also putting in the nurse call and security system, which is everything from the doors to the help button, and the nurse call is also part of our telephone system. So we’ve got our telephone system, our cable satellite TV is being installed as well — we should be pretty well set after March,” he said.

Meanwhile, the heat is on and the backup generator has been installed and tested — it can provide three days of power in a worst-case scenario in which the power grid fails for an extended period of time, he said.

Originally scheduled to open in July, the facility will open its life lease and lodge units on June 1, he said, adding residents at the Foothills Lodge will be relocated to the new facility a few at a time throughout that month. All the staff and residents from the lodge will be moving over, he said.

Then, on July 1, the facility’s full-time care units will open. Although MVSH delivers the contract, Alberta Health Services sponsors and provides the care, he said.

“Residents will be placed off a waiting list from Alberta Health in that new area,” he said.

Smalldon attributes the earlier-than-anticipated completion not only to good weather and two mild winters but also to a good construction management team.

“People have worked well here as a team. We’ve had little in the way of issues or delays, he said.

MVSH also expects to come in on budget, he said. The federal and provincial governments provided grant funding to the tune of $12 million, while the balance of the capital was financed through Mountain View Credit Union and Mountain View County.

“We put quality into the building. We wanted to spend money on the building while we were building it to make sure we had long-lasting quality. Certainly we have a budget we hope we will not exceed, but we will spend the money on the building before it’s done to make it the best product possible,” he said.

When MVSH first responded to the community’s call for such a facility about four to five years ago, residents said they had been looking for the better part of 10 years to get the government’s attention to have a seniors’ complex that would allow them to stay in their community, he said.

“This really was to respond to that need, and now that it’s come true, I think they’re very happy. Local seniors get to stay in their community. Really, it’s a legacy that the pioneers who made this place get to stay here, because that’s where they want to be all of their days,” he said.

“To be sent to another community for 24-7 care is really unfortunate and hopefully that won’t have to occur now, so that’s a good news story for us.”

A fundraiser is planned at the facility on April 23, followed by a public open house in June and a grand opening in September, he said.

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Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel is the editor of the Sundre Round Up and a longtime columnist for other publications of Mountain View Publishing.