Good afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity to present at today's session, and thank you for the meaningful and vital work you're initiating through this committee.
I'm honoured to be here today representing an incredible group of residents, staff, and stakeholders who have played a variety of roles in creating a great senior living community called Elim Village. My hope is that by sharing our story with all of you today, we can inspire thinking, positive dialogue, and most importantly, action in other communities in order to advance inclusion and quality of life for Canadian seniors.
The Elim story begins in the early 1990s, when a small Bible study group got together. One of the couples in this group shared a challenging personal circumstance, in which they were required to place their parents into separate care facilities due to differing care needs. You can imagine the heartbreak when, after 50 years together, they were separated in the last stages of their lives. As a group they were moved by this story and began to envision a place where, despite differing care needs, spouses and friends would never have to worry about being separated again. They envisioned a community that had a variety of housing options, was professionally managed, was enriched with amenities, and allowed residents to celebrate life's joys and meet life's challenges together.
This story inspired the creation of the Elim Foundation, which began working within the community to raise the required funds to move the project forward. In the end, a total of 64 investors raised $1.5 million in equity, enough to put the vision in motion. Over the course of the last 15 years, the initial $1.5 million investment has grown to over $170 million in real estate assets and two senior living campuses. Our main campus, located on 25 beautifully maintained acres in Surrey, B.C., is home to over 650 residents and provides meaningful work to over 400 staff and volunteers. Our housing inventory provides our residents with flexibility and choice by offering a wide range of sizes, styles, and designs, including duplexes, condominium-style apartments, and private individual units for those requiring residential care.
On site we have both private and publicly funded units integrated within the community. The majority of our 250 independent units are private life leases and operate similarly to a strata with a monthly maintenance fee. Our foundation has also purchased five independent units, which they rent out to individuals who may not have the financial means to purchase a life lease.
Within our 109 assisted and supported living units, 50% are private, with the remainder being subsidized by BC Housing and Fraser Health. The majority of our 193 residential care units are publicly funded through the Fraser Health Authority, with a small private pay inventory set aside.
Our second project, located in Chilliwack, B.C., occupies nine acres and is in the initial stages of development.
At its core, the story of Elim Village is a real life example of the power of community. It's through community and the associated congregation of people and assets that we have created a number of advantages.
Through community we have raised investments to initiate and support the acquisition of land and building projects.
Through community we have been able to offer a wide range of housing and care options that reduce the physical and emotional impact of transition and change on older adults. In fact, we've had over 200 housing transitions, and we've been able to keep over 80 spouses together on the same property with differing care needs.
Through community we've added on-site amenities including a 400-seat auditorium, a small bistro, community gathering spaces, walking trails, a doctor's office, and a pharmacy.
Through community we have attracted other individuals and organizations like the Fraser Health Authority, which has been a key partner in integrating care services throughout the village.
Through community we have been able to make wellness a priority. Our programming supports this in a variety of ways, from concerts to wellness fairs and education, from fitness classes to dementia-specific programs. An important area of wellness is also found in spiritual care through the pastoral care program, where we increasingly deal with residents, families, and staff with end of life issues, including grief and loss.
Through community we have also been to engage a group of capable and caring staff members who serve the residents by listening to their concerns, answering questions, providing guidance and support, advocating for their interests, and even coming in to change the occasional light or fix a toilet.
Finally, through community we've been able to create a home for residents where they feel valued, supported, and secure. Similar schedules, interests, and shared experiences and histories allow them to engage and interact with one another on a daily basis, serving to combat the feelings and issues associated with isolation and loneliness.
While we are thankful for our situation and optimistic about the opportunities ahead, we recognize that we are among the fortunate few in our field. Our size, scale, and not-for-profit status have provided us with some financial margin to strategically invest in the community. The relatively recent addition of our residential care has given us service contracts with better than average care hours, and the fact that much of our infrastructure has been constructed during a period of low interest rates has provided us with beneficial financing.
That said, like many other providers, we're concerned about a number of trends we are experiencing. We are increasingly challenged to do more with less, as care needs within assisted living in residential care continue to rise while staffing levels remain the same. Expectations with respect to quality of life are increasing, and dare I say they'll be higher with the baby boomers, yet we have little time and resources available to enhance areas like dining, food quality, and wellness services.
Finally, compliance requirements in all areas, from by-laws to building codes to workplace safety and standards related to clinical best practice, continue to rise. In isolation, these are positive things. However, in combination, they place service providers in challenging positions.
In order to ensure that the older adults of our country are appropriately supported and cared for, we need to be strategic with our use of time, energy, and resources. To this end, I would like to leave you with recommendations from the BC Care Providers Association, put forward in the January 2017 publication “Strengthening Seniors Care: A Made-in-BC Roadmap”, which I believe has application to the national conversation as well.
They are encouraging taking a four-pillar approach to strengthening seniors care in Canada. Pillar one is to encourage continued investment in infrastructure to ensure that the care we provide is supported and not hindered by buildings in which we work every day. Pillar two is to provide for appropriate hours of care and the necessary human resources and training to support it. Pillar three includes focusing on quality of life as much as quality of care. Both go hand in hand, and they must be put on the same playing field. Last, pillar four is to make strategic investments in innovation. We need to better use technology and ensure that proven pilot projects are supported and scaled in order to benefit more seniors.