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Taking care to an all new level

1 January, 2009

Tapestry at Village Gate West profiled in the publication Senior Care Canada

Imagine waking up in the morning, walking downstairs to the café to read your paper and meeting up with your friends; talking over the possibilities that lie ahead for the day and making plans.

Perhaps today you’ll try out that Aquafit class Lucy’s been talking about, oh and there’s that Frushi demonstration this morning that everyone seems to be excited to go to. Not to mention the tickets to the opera that you and your husband have for later tonight, you had better confirm with the Concierge about the Town Car and driver you reserved the other day.

Sound like a fantasy? Well, to the seniors living in Tapestry at Village Gate West in Etobicoke, Ontario, this is an actual example of what their daily life includes.

Managed by Seattle based Leisure Care, a company that has been in the senior care business for more than 30 years, it operates on the philosophy of “Five-Star Fun.” This is their second venture into the Canadian senior housing market. The first Canadian community, the O’Keefe, was established in Vancouver in 2003.

Food is always top of mind when discussing seniors’ accommodations. With things such as onsite bistros and pubs, monthly food credits, and teatime becoming standard in many active living facilities, Tapestry takes it a step further.

Its full service dining room headed by a chef, whose impressive resume includes the Four Seasons Hotel and Auberge du Pommier in Toronto, whips up fantastic menus and conducts live demonstrations for the residents.

In fact recent culinary activities at Tapestry included a Frushi demonstration (a trendy breakfast sushi with fruit and not fish) in the show kitchen and a five-course wine and dine event, attended by 50 people, where the chef created each course to match a specific wine.

Cathy Wallbank, General Manager at Tapestry, is particularly proud of the level of service her facility provides for active seniors, and having spent 30 years in the hotel industry at high end and boutique Toronto hotels, she knows exactly what service means.

“Our model is a service based model, so it’s a lot of the same principles at the hotel business that can be applied to Tapestry,” she comments, “So in making that switch from hotel to senior’s care, it’s quite an easy transition.”

Wallbank notes that all the same elements of a hotel apply to an active lifestyle senior’s community: “From housekeeping, and concierge services, to driver valets, and all through the staffing model and the services we provide to our residents, it is no different than the services you supply to guests; except that people stay here longer.” It is easy to say you offer the services of a hotel, but it’s another to actually go beyond the marketing pieces and supply them.

“There’s nothing institutional about Tapestry whatsoever,” says Wallbank. “It starts right at the front door where we greet people with a valet parking attendant; they come into a concierge, not to an administrator or desk clerk, and the activities and events that we run in the building are fun and energizing.”

The list of amenities continues: “We’ve got a pub with a lighter fare menu and about 25 wines on our wine list and beer on tap. We’ve got a 14 ft by 30 ft Aquafit pool, an arts and crafts room that is partnered by Arts Etobicoke, a high definition golf simulator, and a brain fitness program run by Posit Science,” lists Wallbank.

The eight-week Posit Science Brain Fitness program allows residents to exercise all facets of their brains and in many cases return their cognitive functions to where they were 12 years ago. Wallbank is especially pleased with this program, “we’ve just graduated our second group from this program.”

The PrimeFit program, run by an on staff registered kinesiologist, works with people on a group basis, and individually, to help improve fitness and quality of life.

“One woman said she had great difficulty bending over and putting on her shoes and that was a real struggle for her,” comments Wallbank. “She started getting involved in the PrimeFit program and taking the group classes, getting in the pool, doing Aquafit. She said to me the other day ‘it’s just not a problem any more. I feel so much better. I’ve lost a couple of pounds, and I can put on my shoes no problem, and I feel great,’ relays Wallbank.

“It’s things like that that really make you feel good about what you do. Residents,” notes Wallbank, “are just so happy to be here.”

This sentiment is echoed by the residents themselves. Mr. Ryan and his wife moved into Tapestry in the fall, and are glad that they did.

“I’m 87 years old, and at my age,” remarks Ryan, “life becomes lonely because our circle of friends gets smaller every year. That isn’t the case here, we have friends and people to talk to and do things with.”

Ryan’s family is also happy about the move to Tapestry, “My son told me the other day he’s glad we’ve moved here, because now he doesn’t need to worry about us, and my daughter who was spending a lot of time coming down to see us, doesn’t need to so much. We’re so happy to be living here!” exclaims Ryan.

This feeling extends beyond the residents. “One of the residents for his birthday,” shares Wallbank, “asked his family where they wanted to go and celebrate it and all the kids and the grandkids said ‘Oh, we’re coming to Tapestry.”

She continues, “This is a place that is really intergenerational, the kids feel just as comfortable as their grandparents do, and they want to be here because of the Wii system and the golf simulator. They know that when they come to eat it’s not some institutional food emporium where they’re going to get something slopped out from a steam table. This is fresh, made to order food.”

Wallbank believes that seniors care is always evolving and what worked in 2003 shouldn’t be the same thing that is done in 2008. “As the population ages the different demands in terms of services are different. It’s not what it was,” states Wallbank. She comments, “When my mind goes back to think of seniors homes, before I even got involved in this business, it was some really creepy place that you sent your grandmother to that you would never really want to set foot in. That’s not what it is anymore.”

Wallbank continues, “People want more services, they want to be able to call down and have the dog walked if they want to have the dog walked. They can have their shoes shined, they can have someone run out and buy gifts for them. There are just a myriad of guest services, because people just want someone who can take care of that kind of thing for them. We see a growing need for that.”

Accommodations range from a 370 sq ft studio suite to a 1,039 sq ft two bedroom plus den suite. All suites have full kitchen facilities, with a fridge, stove, and dishwasher. “People can still cook if they want to, and that’s really unusual in retirement living,” remarks Wallbank, “more often than not it’s a bar fridge and a microwave in the suites.”

That’s another thing Ryan enjoys about life at Tapestry. “It’s nice to have great meals and be able to entertain guests in a nice place, but if my wife and I want a sandwich or some good old home cooking, we can do that too.”

Both Ryan and Wallbank sum up Tapestry well.

“A few months ago, my husband came to pick me up, and [Tapestry’s] town car and driver had just pulled up. One of our residents got out of the back and said ‘Hey, thanks Saul!’ and she went into the building. He said ‘no problem’ and grabbed her cleaning and grabbed her groceries, followed her, and took everything up to the suite for her.” Wallbank continues, “My husband said ‘you know it was just so cool, she just got out and was so happy, and it was just such a cool thing to watch happen.’ It wasn’t scripted or setup, it was just very very cool and very powerful that people can enjoy life and enjoy a social life within the building.”

Ryan echoes this feeling. “You know, the government keeps telling us to just live at home, and they encourage it with all these programs and incentives, but when I compare my life now to before I moved into Tapestry, well, it just doesn’t compare. My wife and I are just so happy that we decided to move here. This is living.”

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