GAVE’s mission is to build a fully integrated campus of care consisting of a long term care home, affordable housing, and a culture centre to celebrate culture, tradition, heritage by 2025. Undoubtedly, this multimillion dollar project will also be a major source of constructional and socio-medical employment, and expansion of related ancillary services within the City of Brampton and the Greater Toronto Area.
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The growth of the Vietnamese community in Canada can be largely traced back to the thousands of “boat people” refugees who came to Canada in the mid-1970’s fleeing the turmoil of the Viet Nam war. While many of these individuals have thrived in Canada and have contributed much to Canadian society, many others have struggled with poverty, social isolation and a lack of suitable housing. These problems have deepened as these individuals have reached their retirement years. By 2011, there were an estimated 107,640 Vietnamese living in Ontario, with 12% (12,840) being seniors over the age of 65. By 2016, the ratio of the Vietnamese seniors’ population in Ontario increased to 13.7%. Statistics Canada data for 2016 estimated that nearly 70.3% (169,250) of the Vietnamese Canadian population were immigrants. The implications of the conditions of migration on their physical and psychological health, and material, social and economic well-being are tremendous. In terms of language, most report Vietnamese as their language spoken at home and many speak little English.
Food and nutrition are of major symbolic and practical relevance and value to
Vietnamese culture and in senior care in particular. Food is a major conduit through which expression of care is transferred and received and it brings a special feeling of comfort to those seniors who live in isolation from friends and relatives.
In response, leaders of the Vietnamese community in Canada have formed an
organization dedicated to providing the housing and supports these individuals need to enable them to live their senior years with dignity in a secure, affordable and welcoming physical, economic, social and cultural environment.The Golden Age Village for the Elderly (GAVE), incorporated as a not-for-profit entity in
April 2013 and registered with the CRA as a charity in November 2014, was established with the objective of building and maintaining a seniors’ retirement village serving the cultural, economic, social and unique dietary needs of the more than 100,000 Vietnamese Canadians in the Greater Toronto Area.
In meeting with Vietnamese seniors across Toronto and the GTA, it is clear the
development of a campus of care, which would include a culturally appropriate long-term care facility and inclusive and integrated mixed income purpose-built rental housing community that functionally supports aging in place independent living with supports available for Vietnamese seniors would provide a highly suitable solution to meeting these needs. Both these facilities will place a focus on affordability, where a good percentage of the beds and units are targeted to meet the needs of those with low or modest incomes.
Long-Term Care Accommodation Need for Vietnamese Seniors in the GTA
There are thousands of Vietnamese seniors in the GTA in need of more suitable housing options. Many of these are older seniors over the age of 75 (including some of the original “boat people”) in need of the strong level of support care provided in licensed longterm care homes. Indeed, some 600 Vietnamese seniors have placed their names on waiting lists for long-term care beds across the area.
Data available from the former Central West LHIN report of July 2020 shows that the waiting list in June 2020 for long-term care beds across the Central West LHIN area was 6,834 applicants, with 3,131 from Brampton area alone. Projections from the former LHIN estimate a need for a further 5,881 long-term care beds within this area by 2025 and 9,512 Long-term care beds by 2035. This data shows the critical challenge facing seniors in need of this form of accommodation, both now and in the future. At the same time, existing long-term care homes provide a highly inadequate solution to the needs of many Vietnamese seniors. Many would not consider living in an existing licenced long-term care home for two main reasons:
First, there is a language barrier. As many of these Vietnamese individuals cannot speak English, communication with other staff members, residents, doctors and medical service providers is limited and always difficult. As a result, they become isolated and lonely. Second, Vietnamese seniors have eaten Vietnamese food for most of their lives, and adjusting to new diets is extremely daunting, especially for the older population.
At present, there are no licenced long-term care homes in the GTA that can fill the above gaps. Although some Vietnamese seniors do choose to reside in mainstream long-term care homes, in practice they trade away culturally appropriate care when a crisis makes it impossible to wait any longer. This is inconsistent with access to the right care and with the concept of choice of suitable housing options. As a result, many Vietnamese elders in their 80s or 90s in need of supports currently do not have suitable options for housing. Standard food groups offered by mainstream long-term care homes do not reflect daily palatable and dietary intakes for these elders and the language barriers they encounter result in isolation and depression. They feel cut off, isolated – hence, a sense of loneliness, leading to a loss of hope and depression, perhaps a form of marginalization leading to mental illness.
Meeting the Need: The GAVE Vision
The members of the Vietnamese community who have come together to form GAVE to address the above needs have identified a highly suitable solution. In meeting with Vietnamese seniors across Toronto and the GTA, it is clear the development of a campus of care, which would include a culturally appropriate long-term care facility and inclusive and integrated mixed income purpose-built rental housing community that functionally supports aging in place independent living with supports available for Vietnamese seniors would provide a highly suitable solution to meeting these needs. Both these facilities will place a focus on affordability, where half of the beds and units are targeted to meet the needs of those with low or modest incomes.
Over the past six years, GAVE has gained recognition as a great project for the Vietnamese community in Toronto and the GTA. The organization fosters altruism, loving kindness and compassion in its vision, mission, and values. GAVE is a project with a vision to foster intergenerational connections, investing over $100,000 in scholarships to encourage Vietnamese youth in both community and academic excellence. These are a modest effort, but awarded with true love, and unselfishness. In our dream, all generations will unite in building a center and a senior home infused with Vietnamese culture.
With the presence of the younger generation, the loneliness and isolation that may plague seniors in our community can easily cured. Their physical, psychological, and spiritual health will improve tremendously as a result of our combined community efforts. It is our hope that the GAVE Campus of Care will provide increased opportunity to contribute to a happy and harmonious connection between two starkly different generations in the Vietnamese community. The first generation, the ” boat people”, who left Việt Nam after 1975, have sacrificed their life working with hardship under very difficult conditions in order to bring happiness and the potential for a bright future for their children. Subsequent generations (2nd and 3rd), who were born in this prosperous, wealthy country and have benefited from those efforts will carry the cultural values passed down to them and build our diverse community’s strengths and values.
Project Key Considerations
In 2013, a five-acre property containing a large single-family estate home located at 11088 Pine Valley Drive in Vaughan was purchased by GAVE. Initially it was felt that this property would be well suited for the proposed development. However, the property is located within an area regulated by the Ontario Greenbelt Act and a development of this nature is not permitted within this area. As a result, a more suitable property is required for the development. Meanwhile, the property has been well used for GAVE’s senior programs and activities and other community events. It is likely that the property will be sold when a more suitable location is secured, and the resulting funds will be invested in the new development.
As a result of GAVE’s continued efforts to explore locations throughout the GTA, a new land opportunity was identified by the City of Brampton, located adjacent to community facilities and a seniors’ centre at the municipal address of 8950 McLaughlin Road and a motion to designate the land for GAVE project was unanimously approved by City Council of Brampton on February 19 2020. GAVE is currently working with the City of Brampton to develop an agreement for a long-term land lease at an affordable rate.
Supporting early to moderate stages of Dementia and Alzheimer’s with a contained community design could be explored by looking at best practices. Health spaces like a dental clinic and pharmacy would be welcome additions. Having flexible space for visiting professionals, such as an acupuncturist, with low need for equipment and resources might be a more feasible solution.
Aging in Place
Bringing custom levels of support and assisted living services to independent living units can help residents remain in the same home longer. A range of paid services would be provided, including housekeeping, laundry, and transportation. Units may also be designed with modularity and convertibility in mind.
Commercial and Event Space
Shops, cafes, restaurants, and retail could be part of the village design to make it a complete community; these could be commercially operated and/or social enterprises that are part of the programming. For example, a hair salon is a priority and has the potential be to a social enterprise. A banquet hall with a commercial kitchen could also be rented out for events in the community while bringing in profit.
Cultural Center Community Space and Programming
Spaces and programming could be accessible to the broader community to help facilitate intergenerational connection. Recreational spaces like tennis courts, table tennis and karaoke rooms could be used by families to spend time together. Vietnamese language classes for children taught by elders could also help to bridge generational gaps. These activities could take place in a flexible multipurpose cultural space that can be divided, plus other rooms of various sizes. These spaces could be located in an adjoining “village hub”, along with the event and commercial spaces
The following list of design criteria was developed based on the needs of Vietnamese elders and other best practices. There was an extensive discussion on what a culturally appropriate design might entail.
Residents have a home within a village, where they may depend on their neighbours and form strong community connections.
Emotion-focused Care (EFC)
An emerging trend to support residents with dementia with residential-style spaces, availability of quiet, secluded spaces.
Choice and Self Determination
Residents can be independent and have control over their lives.
It is a social, intergenerational village where people are not alone.
Safety and Security
Residents feel safe and secure.
Accessibility is considered for people of a wide range of abilities (physical, visual, etc.). It is critical for GAVE to ensure its spaces are designed to maximize access for people of all abilities, following the various standards as they apply to various spaces, and exceeding them to increase functional use of accessible features. This applies not only in physical design but also in the governing of services.
From a post Covid-19 pandemic planning perspective, a new modern long-term care and senior housing residence will need to include important design criteria and standards for safety and infection control to protect our vulnerable seniors and families. Considerations might include design for single-resident rooms divided by walls exclusively, easily accessible hygiene stations, zoned mechanical systems that do not recirculate air, smaller resident units with isolated access points for staff and residents (in the case of the LTC environment) and aesthetically pleasing resilient material selection that might withstand frequent cleaning and disinfecting.
Energy Efficiency and Passive House
Energy efficiency is key to help GAVE spend less annualized funding on utilities and energy, and focus on investing in more in resident care. The Passive House approach to design and construction not only maximizes energy efficiency and sets the campus up for net-zero energy consumption (where energy generated might directly offset energy consumed), but also increases overall wellness and minimizes operating costs through simplified building systems
and minimal use of mechanical equipment. Furthermore, a Passive House approach to design falls in line with Vietnamese core values to work off the land with some of the post-pandemic key principles for overall improved systems. GAVE’s aim is to build the first Passive House Long-Term Care facility in Canada.
• There is harmony in the space, with reference to feng shui principles.
• The design incorporates natural elements such as outdoor gardens, a living wall, indoor greenery, and natural materials.
• There is open space, with access to sunlight and fresh air. There could be a glass
walkway with benches to enjoy the outside from inside.
• There are exterior spaces to stroll and sit, inspired by Asian designs (e.g. Vietnamese temple with water features, flowers, and trees).
• There is access to materials in the Vietnamese language (books, audio, video), which could be crowdsourced from the community and kept in a shared space.
• There are spiritual rooms for Buddhist and Catholic religions.