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Where do you want to grow old? An increasing number of British Columbians and Canadians are asking themselves this. With seven million people in Canada now aged 65 and older and accounting for nearly one-fifth of the nation’s total population, there will soon be a flurry of decision-making by seniors and their loved ones in response to that very question.

While some may have the option of remaining in their homes possibly with the assistance of relatives, many others will need a place they can call home where they can get the in-house, aging-related care they need.

That’s where Providence Living enters the picture. Providence Living at The Views, Canada’s first public, non-profit long-term care village based on the concepts of a dementia village, is due to open this summer in Comox. It’s just the first step in Providence Living’s ultimate goal of becoming a national leader in seniors’ care.

The project is a partnership between Providence Living, the province and Island Health with funding also from St. Paul’s Foundation and Comox Valley Healthcare Foundation.

Providence Living at The Views will incorporate global best practices and a unique, made-in-BC care model jointly created by Providence Living and Providence Health Care (PHC). It will welcome seniors with and without dementia as well as younger adults requiring long-term care. The village will be public and accessible to all, no matter one’s financial situation.

The future of long-term care for seniors

The care that residents of Providence Living at The Views will receive will be different from traditional seniors’ care because the new care model understands that aging adults are more likely to thrive when they are able to maintain their independence, social connections, and their desired and purposeful personal routines.

Studies show that a sense of independence and purpose plays a vital role in active, healthy aging. When people know they have a say in making decisions about their days and can direct their own routines, feel connected in meaningful and mutually fulfilling relationships, and see the care home as their home rather than the staff’s workplace, they feel more in control of their future.

The 156-resident long-term care village in Comox will be a true home for seniors – a place that recognizes residents as individuals with unique needs and interests, and provides them with opportunities for choice, spontaneity, social connections, and day-to-day activities that give residents’ lives joy and purpose.

Providence is evolving long-term care to one where residents’ comfort, individuality and dignity are honoured and prioritized while always delivering to them the highest quality medical and nursing care.

“Providence Living at The Views will be a place where residents will be supported to maintain strong family and community connections, and empowered to enjoy autonomous, meaningful lives,” said Providence Living president and CEO Mark Blandford. “And they will see that we can convert our compassion and hard work into a day well lived for them and other seniors.”

Home suite home

The private resident living space of Providence Living at The Views will be organized into 13 households, each configured to accommodate up to 12 residents in private suites.

Each suite will have its own bathroom, additional comfort, privacy, and heightened infection control.

The individual households will be outfitted with a kitchen, laundry room, dining room, and living room where residents can take part in life’s daily pleasures, including making meals and choosing to participate in normal household activities like tidying and laundry.

Freedom of movement, engagement and spirit

Providence Living at The Views’ barrier-free building design fosters a social relational rather than an institutional model of care. That, combined with the physical environment, will encourage seniors to direct how they want to live and what they want to do to the extent of their abilities.

Providence Living at The Views will offer opportunities for authentic experiences and emotional and social connections, including intergenerational relationships courtesy of a daycare on site. It will also allow freedom of movement and access to the outdoors. Each household connects to a large, secure interior courtyard, which means residents will be able to safely access the outdoors and maximize opportunities to enjoy the therapeutic qualities of nature.

Autonomy will be further enhanced in the move to flexible routines where the pace and rhythms of the day are determined by the household members – in the same way most individuals drive their own days.

New technology to assist an older generation

Providence Living at The Views will be the first long-term care site in BC to utilize Wi-Fi enabled robots to move supplies and materials around the site. This will reduce workload, freeing up staff so that they can spend more time engaging directly with residents.

Tunable lighting will be effective in aiding residents who live with sensory changes (e.g. vision loss) and cognitive changes (e.g. dementia) to see where they want to go and to identify spaces, rooms, equipment, and signs. It will also enable them to see other people’s faces and body language, become involved in recreational activities, join in everyday routines, and delight in the changing seasons. Tunable features will also promote healthy circadian patterns to optimize sleep and have been empirically proven to reduce adverse events like falls.

Location information devices will help residents and families feel safe navigating independently because they provide staff real-time information about where residents are within the village. These devices will also offer keyless entry functions to minimize the use of keys and allow residents to have freedom of movement in the village.

A transformative long-term care village and beyond

The availability of broader amenities, such as the children’s daycare, bistro, art studio, coffee shop, grocery store, gardens, and chapel, will bring about many opportunities for residents to interact with people of all generations from the local community – by not just inviting community members in, but by creating a thriving village that is also important in the larger community.

The village will feature a first of its kind Indigenous sacred gathering space designed by the local First Nation and intended for Indigenous staff, residents and families to honour their traditions.

After construction of the new long-term care village is fully completed and existing spaces at The Views at St. Joseph’s are vacated, Providence Living is set to embark on an extensive, phased redevelopment of the 13.92 acres of waterfront lands, which will further welcome the local community to be part of the Providence Living at The Views on-site community.

The goal of this redevelopment is to cultivate a vibrant, mixed-use community that not only augments, but also bolsters the core senior-centric facilities and services. This visionary redevelopment may include a variety of housing options designed for seniors, alongside market housing, commercial spaces, and retail areas, to meet the needs and enrich the vibrancy of the community.

The case for seniors’ and dementia care

In 2021, for the first time, BC had just over one million persons aged 65 and older. This age group represents 20.3 per cent of the province’s population, an all-time high for provinces west of Quebec.

By 2031, almost one in four people in BC will be over the age of 65.

More seniors will have a greater impact on the health care system and increase health care needs.

In addition to a growing seniors’ population, the type of care residents require is also changing. Because medical advances have allowed people to live longer, many seniors are coping with the complications that come with aging.

This includes a greater vulnerability to conditions, such as dementia, heart disease, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and sensory impairments. This means that residents entering long-term care today, and in the future, will be frailer and require more complex, multidisciplinary care than ever before.

In 2020, it was estimated that there were 597,000 individuals living with dementia in Canada. By 2030, that number will reach close to one million.

By 2050, more than 1.7 million Canadians are expected to be living with dementia, with an average of 685 individuals being diagnosed each day.

More about Providence Living

In 2017, BC-based health care providers, Providence Health Care and St. Joseph’s General Hospital, established Providence Living to focus on significantly improving both the environment and experience of British Columbians living in long-term care homes. Providence Living is an independent, faith-based non-profit organization with its own board and management structure.