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Senior living in Abbotsford

by Sharon Simpson

 

With its gorgeous views of the mountains, its inviting climate and the amenities of a large urban centre, Abbotsford is an ideal city for seniors to call home. For years, Abbotsford has been the destination for retiring prairie folk who favour the milder climate. Many of the original farm settlers started their migration west in one of the prairie provinces. Lured by the promise of “milk and honey”, they made their way to the lush Fraser Valley. Later on, their relatives visited and tasted the goodness of the warm winters and the spectacular summers. It was an easy decision to retire to Abbotsford in their later years.

Condos for seniors
This migration of seniors led to a burst of condominium developments in the 1980’s especially clustered around Clearbrook. The Mennonite people were committed to the idea of living in community and sought out ways to continue. This led to the development of two senior care homes in the 1950s – Menno Place and Tabor Village.

Churches for seniors
Churches were established during this time and congregations developed their own communities of care and shared living. Located on Clearbrook Road are Bakerview Mennonite Brethren Church, Clearbrook Mennonite Brethren Church, Tabor Village (Seniors Care), Garden Park Tower (111 residential suites with commercial space), Abundance Canada (generous living donation / investment planning), Columbia Bible College, Emmanuel Church and Mennonite Educational Institute (K-12 Christian education).  Close by are Menno Place (Seniors Care), Hallmark Retirement (Seniors Care), King Road Mennonite Brethren and Northview Church.

More than 10,000 seniors now live in this relatively small area of Abbotsford, which has been coined “The Clearbrook Corridor”…. And what a place it is!
With the Garden Park Tower community centre and Rose Room Coffee Shop, there is a constant buzz of gatherings. Many are within walking distance of the coffee shop.
When I was in Grade 8 at MEI, it was located at the corner of Clearbrook Road and Old Yale Road. It was an old building and the front of it faced Clearbrook Mennonite Brethren Church. My friends and I would count the numbers of funerals at the “old people’s church”. There seemed to be a hearse there every week… and there still is. Many seniors move to the Clearbrook Corridor and begin to attend Clearbrook MB church.

Pastor Walter Wiens has spearheaded a ministry for seniors and has been recognized by both the Fraser Health Authority and the City of Abbotsford. A visionary, Wiens recognized the need for seniors to get accurate information about aging and the choices required for their best future. He began to host information sessions on topics such as: Your Will; Making Final Care Choices; Visiting Others in Hospital; and Transitions in Aging. His vision for seniors is to help them age well, in both practical and spiritual ways. He has blazed the way for honest conversations, timely information and transitional support for seniors.

Clearbrook Corridor
As seniors retire and downsize, many find their way to the Clearbrook corridor. It is here that they can tap into the unique television ministry operated by Clearbrook MB church. The growing numbers of seniors in the Canadian demographic is impacting Abbotsford. is being realized in Abbotsford as well, This inspired the initial Golden Age Society Roundtable in 2014. This discussion was the vision of Ron Willms who was the Executive Director of the Golden Age Society at the time. His role included developing the community connections at the Garden Park Tower. Roundtable guests have included Alice Wong, Minister of State for Seniors (2011 – 2015); Isobel Mackenzie, Seniors Advocate for BC; and Irene Shepperd, Executive Director, Fraser Health – Abbotsford and Mission Health Services.

Leadership collaboration
The Roundtable event is held each spring and brings together more than 25 key leaders in seniors care to Abbotsford. including Abbotsford Peer Support for Seniors, the Age-Friendly Initiative by the City of Abbotsford, Seniors Care Homes, Ed Fast, MP; Seniors’ Care Homes, Abbotsford Community Services and many others. The uniqueness of this leadership collaboration is an interesting point as we reflect on the positive community for seniors in Abbotsford, This desire to work together has been fostered through the Clearbrook Corridor initiatives. and is resulting in  trust  and a synergy that yields results that cannot be achieved by one person or one organization, such as Home Health care.

As seniors age, they may require additional support through clinical care services that come into their homes. This is a financially subsidized service that allows seniors to continue living independently with up to four supportive clinical visits per day.

The roundtable, information is distributed such as research being done on technology and dementia, and Rapid Response nurses available to provide additional support to seniors receiving Home Health. At Menno Place we initiated a meeting with the Home Health Cluster Care team from Fraser Health to increase collaboration. We learned how comprehensive their support is for our residents who live in our Independent Living apartments and offered to expand their office space on the Menno campus in order to support the cluster care model. With this model, there is a consistency in the home health care aides as well as site-specific training. In many ways, this increased collaboration opens doors for our initiatives in the area of spiritual and transitional support as the Home Health cluster care team provides the clinical support.

More than just a pretty view of the incredible dormant volcano that is Mt Baker – more than just a lush valley of green patches of farm fields – more than a tulip festival destination…. Abbotsford is a well-resourced and well-led community for seniors who are approaching the final third of their life. We welcome any newcomers, who, like the generations before decide that Abbotsford is a lovely place to settle down and enjoy a life of retirement in a community of spiritual support.

Sharon Simpson is the Director of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement at Menno Place in Abbotsford.

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