Monday, 28 October 2013

The small miracle of making a difference for eldercare

                       The welcoming dining room in The Annex

I probably won't have a gravestone.
But if I did, I know what I'd want it to say.
She made a difference.
And I'd want it to be true.

At Christie Gardens, where I work, I have the opportunity every day to make a difference for an amazing group of seniors. They are from every profession and background, and they have the most interesting stories. I see their kindness and their grace. They add to my life every day.

Change and innovation has always been a part of Christie Gardens, but this has never been more true than now. We are seeking to change the way eldercare is provided, going from a medical model to a social, homelike model.

How does this look? We are developing four "neighbourhoods" which have approximately 20 residents. Let me walk you through the first one, called "The Annex."

When you enter the area, the first thing you notice is the colours. The warm golds and rusty oranges are welcoming. The family room is inviting, and has a door leading to the garden. It's the perfect place for a cup of tea and a chat. Private rooms line the hall, which leads to an open area. A room on your left is the studio, where several residents with their care partners are preparing for a game of bowling. Cloe the cat wanders over, yawns, and heads for a resident's room to sleep on the bed. The open lounge is inviting, and leads right into the dining room, where residents and care partners eat together. The nutrition partner is there with her apron on, looking like "mom in the kitchen." She often sits and chats with a resident while they are eating. The shower and laundry rooms are on your rights. Two residents enjoy folding laundry (especially the clean, warm smell) and do that task every day.

It's the atmosphere that I love. It isn't rushed, as care partners provide care and interact with their six residents. There is laughter and music. Everyone works together. The nurse comes in to deliver medications and treatments, but isn't a central figure. A resident arrives mid-afternoon and is served a cup of tea. It's home.

If you go down the hall, you will see the next neighbourhood, which is due to open late November, under construction. Excitement is high as it takes shape. The kitchen is in, sans appliances, and the wallpaper is up. Residents and staff peek as they go by, anticipating the opening.

I work down the hall from there. Our neighbourhood will be the next one to be constructed, and we are forever speculating where the dining room will be.

But it's not just about the construction, although the cosy, open atmosphere is integral to the model of care. It's a way to provide care that is respectful. It says, "You are a person. You have a choice. You can still grow and learn and be interested in life." So the residents choose when they get up and what they like to eat and what activities they enjoy. They interact and make new friends. They visit with family and old friends. They live.

All of this is expensive, and Christie Gardens is fully self-funded and non-profit. Our capital campaign has so far raised over $50,000 toward the project. Each neighbourhood costs approximately $250,000.

Here is where you can make a difference.

Aviva Insurance runs a contest each year through Aviva Community Fund. They invite participants to submit projects that will make a difference in their community. What was that? Make a difference?

You got it.

Christie Gardens has entered their project, not only to build the neighbourhoods, but to challenge the status quo of eldercare. We are pioneering a new model, and showing others that it is possible. You may not live in our area, or even in our country. But this revolution will affect you in some way.

What can you do? You can vote. Register once, and every day until November 4th, vote at

Our support has escalated, and I believe it because people are catching the vision.

 It is possible.

Make a difference.



  1. Beautiful Words, Beautiful Person

  2. Thank you Ann for reminding us of "small miracles" - they are truly in abundance all around us.

  3. You are amazing Ann while we all feel this way you express them in beautiful words for others to read. I am glad to work with you....

  4. Ann
    You couldn't have said it better. I work with numerous seniors on the North shore of Vancouver and they are the most wonderful, giving and intelligent people I have ever encountered. They have and take the time to speak with us all and their wisdom never ceases to astound me.
    I also work with people who have been recently released from incarceration and they, too, have a lot to offer but they don't have the wisdom, yet, that the elderly have. However, for many, it will come.
    Well written, bonne chance! and keep up the good work. I go to bed each night having shared and learned from many people better than I, as I'm sure you do