MLAs Barry Penner and John Les are joined by Heather Cook

MLAs Barry Penner and John Les are joined by Heather Cook

‘Bigger, better’ Valleyhaven opens for seniors

A bigger and better Valleyhaven seniors housing opened Friday with a poetry-reading by Grace McDonald one of the original residents.

A bigger and better Valleyhaven seniors housing opened Friday with a poetry-reading by Grace McDonald one of the original residents.

“The food is wonderful and the care is excellent,” the 88-year-old said before reading her poem to a crowd that included Chilliwack MLAs John Les and Barry Penner, and Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz.

Kevin Svoboda, owner of Kaigo Retirement Communities Ltd. said there were “challenges” in the $16-million redesign of the old facility, particularly keeping 29 residents safely in one half of the building while the other was demolished.

“But it’s one thing to build a facility,” he added, “and another to make it a home.”

For that he credited Valleyhaven’s director, nurses, care staff, recreation and maintenance staff.

“You guys have made this a home,” he said.

Penner said the old facility looking nothing like the “bigger and brighter” Valleyhaven that has taken its place on Menholm Road behind the Chilliwack General Hospital.

“Clearly, the old (facility) was getting a little long in the tooth,” he said.

Privately-owned and operated, the new Valleyhaven has 91 beds, a 40 per cent increase over the 65 in the old facility. The Fraser Health Authority subsidizes 80 beds, and the remaining 11 are privately-funded.

The three-storey building is operated on a “neighbourhood” system, grouping together seniors with similar needs. Each neighbourhood has its own kitchen, dining area and activity space.

The residents’ rooms are larger, and there is a bistro, general store, wellness room, hair salon and recreation areas for residents.

Les said more seniors housing will be needed in the future, “housing that’s clean, comfortable and dignified.”

“Increasing the capacity for residential care in Chilliwack allows our seniors to stay in the community they call home,” he said.

Heather Cook, the FHA’s executive director of residential and assisted living, said she was “delighted to see how beautiful” the new Valleyhaven is.

But she added that the true measure of success is the care seniors receive.

“That comes from the staff,” she said.

There seems to be no worries in that regard, according to McDonald.

“There’s always someone to hold your hand and give you a hug,” she said.