As a reflection of an immigrant community’s coming of age, the Vietnamese Canadian community in Ontario with a growing population of over 100,000 is now facing the increasing challenge in addressing the needs of its aging seniors who arrived here in Toronto and the GTA with no financial resources largely in the late 1970s-80s “boat people” migration. Their migration was not planned but resulted from violent displacement following the end of the war in Vietnam. As a result, many experienced ruptured family ties from the war, displacement, and barriers to family reunification. These seniors of the Vietnamese community are among the neediest seniors in Ontario
An estimate of 3,000 Vietnamese elders in the Toronto GTA are now in their 70s and 80s speak little English and most of them don’t have many options. Isolation and moving to a non-Vietnamese specific senior home, is one of the biggest challenges Vietnamese seniors are facing. Standard food groups offers by main stream nursing homes or retirement home do not reflect daily palatable and dietary intakes of these elders. They feel cut off, isolated – hence, a sense of loneliness, leading to a loss of hope and depression, perhaps a form of marginalization, mental illness.
As of February 2019, the wait list for long stay beds in Ontario nursing home is being reported to be at 34,834. This wait list and the long wait times after referral to long term care create further difficulties and challenges for Vietnamese seniors to access a culturally appropriate place where they may live with dignity and in security, safety and comfort. Inadequate long-term care capacity is a barrier to access, and for many seniors on our current wait list of over 600 elders will be insurmountable: frailty, medical decline and caregiver burnout push seniors out of their homes.
GOLDEN AGE VILLAGE FOR THE ELDERLY (GAVE)
In response to this emerging challenge for the Vietnamese seniors, The Golden Age Village for the Elderly (GAVE) was incorporated as a community-based not-for-profit entity in April 2013 and registered with the CRA as a charity organization in November 2014 with a project goal to build an Affordable Senior Residence and a Long Term Care catering to the cultural, psychosocial and unique dietary needs for elderly members of the Vietnamese community.
Dubbed Tuoi Hac in Vietnamese, meaning “long-lived like a crane”, GAVE project with the support and contribution of the Vietnamese community has acquired a 5.6-acre, $2.8-million investment property on 11088 Pine Valley Dr. in Vaughan as a major step toward realizing that goal and has been actively working with all three levels of government for the past five years to help bring this urgently needed development to reality.