The announcement was made on April 22, 2022, with the presence of MPP for Pickering-Uxbridge, Peter Bethlenfalvy, and other guests. The long-term home will have designated spaces (31% of the 128 beds) for the Afro-Caribbean cultural community.
According to Statistics Canada, applicants for ethnocultural nursing homes face much longer wait times (about six months) than those who have not applied for specific housing.
The project is part of the Ontario government's plan to create modern, safe, and comfortable homes for seniors—to create more than 30,000 new beds by 2028 and modernize 28,000 long-term care beds in the province.
“The government plans to provide long-term care solutions and that means building modern, safe, and comfortable homes for our seniors,” said Paul Calandra, Minister of Long-Term Care in a press release on April 22, 2022.
Speaking on behalf of his constituency, Peter Bethlenfalvy, said, “Today’s announcement speaks to our government's commitment to ensure that seniors receive the best culturally appropriate care in their own communities.”
Dr. Alvin Curling, a distinguished community leader who served as Ontario’s first Black Speaker of the House and first Black Cabinet Minister, is supporting the project as a community champion and special advisor. In the press release, Curling recalled the community’s contribution to the health care sector and confirmed that the Afro-Caribbean Black Community welcomed the announcement. According to Curling, the project will undoubtedly help address the desperate long-term care need in the community.
The project's concept
People of colour are known for respecting and valuing their elders, who serve as their primary sources of knowledge. Famous African sayings like "When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground" and "Young people who do not cultivate friendship with the elderly are like a tree without roots" are often cited as examples of this practice.
Once they are outside their habitat, though, it is a different story. And the Black community in Canada is no exception. Most of them could not find a conducive environment to freely share their knowledge and wisdom and nurture their young while enjoying the last years of their lives.
Singh’s family story confirms this. “We found an Italian home for my Italian grandmother when she got older. However, we didn't find any homes tailored toward people from Trinidad,” recalls Singh from his experience two years ago, who is half Italian and half Trinidadian.
This incident triggered Singh to start thinking of creating a culture-specific long-term care home for the Black community. Then, he reached out to community leaders and contacted organizations such as the Atlantic Mass Foundation, a Caribbean non-profit that holds the license for this project to discuss the Afro-Caribbean community's needs for care homes. He also spoke to individuals who had their family members in regular long-term care facilities which did not host their specific needs. One interesting thing he discovered is that seniors want to connect with their roots as they get older.
“Seniors tend to revert to their roots. For example, they start craving more of their cultural food because it reminds them of their childhood,” says Singh.
Based on the discussions, they developed an action plan to start the process of providing a beautiful living environment that anyone would be proud to call home. Singh believes that this untapped segment is desperately needed by the Black community in the Durham Region.
Durham Region has one of the highest percentages of the Black community in Canada. According to the Community Lens Report Volume 4, 2020, there are approximately 179,325 adults aged 55 and over in Durham Region, accounting for 27.8% of the population.
The Long-Term Care set up
The project is expected to cost around $45-$55 million and project partners are continuing to brainstorm ideas for the services they plan to provide. They will raise funds through loans and fundraising.
The D&S Group are focused on making sure that they are working with the right people and a social committee to ensure that every aspect of the project is taken care of. Singh says the project will make efforts to ensure the building features state-of-the-art facilities. The G&S Group is collaborating with sustainability experts who are working on cutting-edge technology for heating, air conditioning, ventilation, and other facilities to make the residents always feel protected. The project will also consider colour coordination, decoration, food, staffing, and other culture-specific factors, so residents feel connected to their roots.
“We're trying to create an extension of what they're used to, so they will be culturally connected with their surroundings and feel safe and secure in the new environment,” explains Singh.
The current plan is to designate about 40 beds of the facility for the Afro-Caribbean cultural community. But Singh indicates that the percentage of beds might be increased in the future. The D&S Group is ready to start work as soon as it can. They plan on completing the long-term home project in three to four years. However, they haven't locked down a location and still need municipal approval. Discussions are currently underway to determine how fast they can move forward.
“It took us over two years to get to this point and secure a license. The next challenge is to get approvals which can take several years. We are hoping to expedite this process,” says Singh.
The community's contribution
The community's response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“A sense of community is imperative throughout our lives, but especially so in later years. It is wonderful to see something like this coming to fruition for our Afro-Caribbean Community,” said Jamaal Magloire, retired Canadian basketball legend, President of the Jamaal Magloire Foundation and current Raptors Assistant Head Coach and Community Ambassador, in a press release.
More importantly, Singh requests the community share their conversations on why this project is important to the municipality, the province, and the region. The community can also directly email their story to the Durham region to inform them about the growing demand for long-term care homes.
“The more information we have and the more demand we can show, the easier it will be to complete this project in a shorter period and hopefully roll out the project across multiple regions and provinces,” says Singh.
Finally, Singh wants to assure everyone that his group is working round the clock to ensure their vision becomes a reality. "This is the first project of its kind, and it means a lot to us. We want to do everything to exceed expectations and act as a model for facilities like this. We hope that more people will initiate long-term care projects centred around the Black community."
Did you know that...
- Seniors represent the largest age group in Durham, with residents aged 65 and older increasing from 11.4% in 2011 to 13.7% in 2016.
- Nearly two in five seniors in Durham are immigrants.
- In Durham, 5,000 seniors live in nursing homes and senior residents, with a majority living in health care facilities.