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Eighty-five-year-old Reginald Southwood’s life has been filled with outdoor adventures, from mountain climbing, to cycling, to skiing to white-water kayaking. He’s travelled the globe as a finance specialist working with OPEC countries, while building family memories in his long-time Calgary home.
His move, six months ago, from that home into his one-bedroom suite at The Edward, one of Optima Living’s two seniors’ residences in Calgary, is one more life change he’s embracing after the recent death of his beloved wife.
“It’s the biggest transition anyone can make as an 85-year-old, and you can still be homesick for things of the past. But people here are so friendly and understanding, they feel like family.”
The Edward is one of 22 Optima Living residences in Alberta, many of which will be hosting open houses Sept. 24, to give potential residents a look at what today’s seniors’ living can look like.
Seven of the 22 residences — which offer everything from independent living, to assisted and supportive living, to long-term care (including memory care) or a combination of all, providing full aging-in-place — were just purchased by British Columbia-based Optima this past April. Another three acquisitions (two in Red Deer and one in Medicine Hat) will be finalized this October.
Nimeera Shamji, Optima’s director of operations for Alberta, says there has been a 20 to 30 per cent increase this year in demand for senior living residences, particularly for publicly funded long-term care beds, where there’s often a one-year waiting list.
She expects further Alberta growth for Optima next year as need continues to grow.
What makes Optima different from other seniors’ residences, says Shamji, is its emphasis on making residents feel at home, or as the company’s mission states:
“Let us welcome you home. Home, where you’re safe. Home, where you’re respected. Home, where your voice is heard, your views matter, and you have freedom of choice.”
It means each residential building is unique to the needs of the community and this fall’s open houses are designed, Shamji says, to offer no-pressure glimpses of every-day life, from the units themselves, to the chef-designed meals, to community activities.
At The Edward, the walls of Southwood’s one-bedroom unit are lined with his own art work (including a staff member’s portrait and an Edward dog resident) and with collectibles from his world travels. He shares his comfortable apartment and its adjacent patio with Missy, the Russian Blue Hair he and his wife adopted five years ago after the cat showed up on their doorstop.
Missy, he says, is family and The Edward’s inclusion of pets adds to its family atmosphere.
And while he looked at two other seniors’ residences in the city, Southwood says it was the total package The Edward offered —with a staff that, from concierge to management to the servers in the dining room, is always there to help — that sold him.
That package includes the “biggest living room I’ve ever had” in the communal space that includes a library, a bar and a piano, weekly activities and regularly scheduled trips, a rooftop resident-tended vegetable and flower garden with great views, a residence luxury car that takes individual seniors on outside trips, and weekly housekeeping.
His apartment has a washer/ dryer, and an appliance-loaded kitchenette that, so far, he has only used to store cookies despite loving to cook.
But why cook, when the Edward’s dining room offers daily, chef-developed specials along with full menu choices, Sunday brunches, a separate dining area where he can host his daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren, and desserts — “I am a dessert guy” — that are “amazing.”
In a place where he has made new friends — “just what my doctor ordered” — Southwood says his advice for seniors transitioning to a new phase of life is to get involved and to know that while there is no place like home, “home is what you make it. For me, this is pretty close to perfect.”
WHAT: Optima Living is hosting open houses at many of its seniors’ residences (from independent living, supportive living to long-term and memory care or a mixture of all options) throughout Alberta, offering tours, entertainment, and raffles.
WHEN: Sept. 24, from 1 to 4 p.m (times may vary slightly depending on the residences)
WHERE: In Calgary, The Edward near Marda Loop, a boutique-style, independent living building, and Sage Hill, a mix of independent and supportive living units. In Airdrie, Cedarwood Station (independent living).
In Edmonton, at Wild Rose, Laurel Heights, Lewis Estates, Rutherford Heights, and MacTaggart Place, as well as at Country Cottage, Summerwood Village and Aster Gardens in Sherwood Park and Everitt Gardens in St. Albert.
For a full list of the open houses throughout Alberta, visit optimaliving.ca/events/fall-open-house-2023