Meadowbrook seniors residence celebrated its 20th anniversary on Saturday with cake, the honouring of its founders and acknowledgement of the independent living complex’s 205 past and present residents.
Gulf Islands Seniors Residence Association (GISRA) owns the facility, after becoming a charitable organization in 1999 and then purchasing the land and an existing house at 121 Atkins Rd. the following year.
With no government funding available at the time, acquiring the property and building the 38-unit complex relied on significant financial contributions from a number of dedicated and capable individuals. GISRA executive director Harry Barnes said when reviewing Meadowbrook’s history it was amazing to see how much time and money those people put into making the vision a reality, noting Mary Toynbee, in particular, as well as Gordon English and a number of others.
“If there’s one person we want to say that we owe the most to it’s Mary Toynbee,” said Barnes.
Not only was her name on most of the letters going out to various parties, but she and her husband Manson ended up forgiving a substantial loan they had made to GISRA.
Interestingly, Toynbee lived for 19 years at Meadowbrook, the longest of any other resident, until her death last year. That fact emerged while current GISRA president Helen Hinchliff was compiling a list of everyone who had lived at Meadowbrook and for how long since it opened. With that information she created a number of “posthumous prizes” related to age and longevity during her presentation at the party on Saturday.
It turns out the “grandest-age person” to move into Meadowbrook and continue living there to the “ripest age” was Nancy Keith Murray. She became a Meadowbrook resident in 2005 at the age of 97 and was the first to celebrate her 100th birthday as a resident.
Others who were at least 90 when they arrived and in a similar category were Marjorie Beggs, Hilda Bennett, Pat Herchmer, Bob Kertland, Don “Goodie” Goodman and Anne Mouat.
Barnes and Hinchliff note that the more common denominator at Meadowbrook is that residents are happy there.
“People love living here,” said Barnes. “It’s interesting to know why they would love it because, obviously, a lot of the people are not in the best of health and they’re at the time of their lives where death is around the corner. So why would this be a happy place? But it is. It’s interesting . . . What chemistry is happening here that makes it be that way? I don’t know.”
Hinchliff said the key is that residents like each other.
“They really get a lot out of their daily chats together, you know, over coffee or dinner or whatever,” she said.
Barnes and Hinchliff said residents also love the staff, and GISRA has made a concerted effort in recent years to retain those valued individuals through improved compensation and a pension plan.
People also appreciate the safety and security Meadowbrook provides, perhaps not realizing how stressful it was to be maintaining a large home and property, especially if that person was widowed.
Meadowbrook has a thorough screening process to ensure applicants are a good fit. Residents must be able to live independently, although some services such as the evening meal and housekeeping are available. A variety of social and recreational activities also take place.
“That’s the legacy, isn’t it?” said Barnes. “In 20 years, we’ve provided a wonderful home for lots of people.”
Unfortunately, he said, many seniors postpone the decision to make the transition and by then it is too late to go the independent living route.
“They think they want to stay in their own homes — they see this as ‘the home’ rather than a way of life and a place where they can come and live. This is not just the situation for us. The whole independent living industry has the same problem.”
GISRA also owns a property on Kings Lane that includes the Salt Spring Island Health Centre and a portion currently being leased to BC Housing for supportive-housing purposes where it has planned for a number of years to build a second residential complex for seniors. But Barnes said that plan is now being re-examined as the business case may no longer make sense. A consultant will soon be looking at the different scenarios with options for the GISRA board and staff to consider.