The halls and community rooms were bustling with activity as Bradford Valley Care Community marked its 20th anniversary this week.
Staff, residents and visitors celebrated the milestone with cake, ice cream, games, entertainers, a dunk tank and a special presentation from Mayor James Leduc and Deputy Mayor Raj Sandhu at the facility on Line 6 on Thursday afternoon.
“I love coming here and saying ‘hi’ to everybody. We were here on Canada Day and did some singing — I know you’re probably still getting over that shock of hearing us sing, but we do enjoy coming here, and it’s a pleasure to be here and see all the smiling face today,” Leduc said.
The deputy mayor related his personal connection to the home, staff and residents.
“I feel like I’m part of the family here, because my wife, my sister-in-law and my niece work here, so I feel like I’ve been employed here for years, because I hear the stories. Thank you for your years of service, because the smiles on the residents’ faces tells all about how good of a place this is,” Sandhu said.
The mayor read the message of congratulations on behalf of the town before he and Sandhu presented Cathy VanBeek, executive director of Bradford Valley, and Kathy Wheeler, associate executive director, with a certificate of achievement.
VanBeek then presented a slideshow acknowledging some of the longest-serving staff, while Wheeler presented them with flowers.
That includes a number of people who have worked at Bradford Valley for:
- More than 20 years: 10
- 20 years: 25
- 15 years: 4
- 10 years: 8
- 5 years: 11
In an interview, VanBeek, expressed her appreciation for the longevity and commitment of staff.
“Bradford Valley has been part of the community for 20 years now, and it’s great to have staff that have been here the entire time and that still come to work happy, do the job, they love caring for seniors and it makes a big difference in the care community,” she said.
That care was all the more important during the COVID-19 pandemic, and VanBeek recognized the sacrifices made by staff.
“Our CEO says ‘when the pandemic hit, people went running,’ but our staff came running back in. It was scary, but they’re dedicated and they knew without them, the residents wouldn’t get the care they needed, so they put their fears and their families second and came in to care for residents. It’s pretty special,” she said.
Wheeler acknowledged the broader community as well.
“We also have an external community that’s fantastic. Our community outside of Bradford Valley, the Bradford community is really supportive to us,” she said.
The care home currently has 244 residents with a capacity for 246.
When it first opened in 2003, the home only had room for 150 residents, but an expansion added the west portion in 2009, which made way for another 96 residents.
Both Wheeler and VanBeek agreed there have been a lot of changes over the years, but one trend that stuck out is that many people live independently for longer.
“I think in general there’s more support in the community. Twenty years ago, a resident would come in walking and driving, in much better physical and mental status. ... It’s a change in demographics for sure,” VanBeek said.
They estimated that most residents who came to the home 20 years ago were in their early 80s, but now they estimate most arrive in their early to late 90s.
“We had residents when we first opened who had parking spots outside. They would drive here and run tons of our programs, like exercise groups, but now it’s a little bit different and they’re not quite as able to do that,” Wheeler added.
Still, that hasn’t stopped the residents from enjoying the variety of activities available each day, including dance, physio, choir, crafts, bingo, baking, participating in the resident council and going for outings.
Wheeler emphasized that living in long-term care can still be enjoyable.
“People think long-term-care is you’re coming in and it’s depressing, but there’s so much life. There’s life after long-term-care. It’s fun,” she said.
One resident enjoying the festivities was Alina Greer.
Greer came to Bradford Valley in March, shortly before her 93rd birthday in April.
“It’s great. Everybody’s great. I have a lovely room I’m sharing with another lady,” she said, adding that she and her roommate have plenty of space.
Greer has been meeting other residents, both on her floor and in the dining room and felt Bradford Valley was better than expected after she had some bad experiences when her parents were in nursing homes.
“I really like it. I’ve decided to stay here until my eyes close for good,” she said with a laugh.
Greer has been participating in most of the activities available, including the games of bingo.
“I’m not a card player, but I do a lot of knitting and crochet, which I donate to charity,” she said.
Greer also used those talents for the recent craft fair in which she made blankets, shawls and dishcloths.
“That’s what keeps me busy,” she said.
Having lived independently in Alliston for about 50 or 60 years, Greer found a spot at Bradford Valley after she suffered a fall in February that required her to spend eight weeks in hospital.
She recalled coming to Canada from England in 1952, shortly after her son was born in 1951, but she was originally born in Poland in 1930.
Greer’s family fled the country after the Russian invasion during the Second World War in 1939, and ended up in Germany, but her father worked for the hydro company at the time of the invasion and wasn’t initially allowed to leave Poland.
“We didn’t know my father couldn’t come with us. We left Poland and we didn’t know anything about him until four years. We found out through strangers that knew him and us, that he was in Italy, and when we wrote to him, in the meantime he was transferred to England,” she said.
The family was eventually able to reunite in England in 1943.