Home Month and Year April 2020 Senior Living

Senior Living

How to find the best residence for an aging parent


Aging, the journey is different for each person. Some seniors are cycling around the reservoir yet craving social interaction while others are struggling to prepare meals and bathe themselves. Helping a parent move out of the home they’ve lived in for decades is a major life change but it need not be traumatic. Today there are more exceptional senior living opportunities than ever before.

“It’s a buyer’s market for senior living, and seniors and their families are in the driver’s seat right now,” says Martha Rayner, sales consultant at Revera-McKenzie Towne Retirement Living. People are shopping around to make sure they’re getting the best value in support, services and amenities to enjoy the best lifestyle.

While people plan financially for their retirement and beyond, with wills and personal directives, it’s also encouraged to prepare for the “what if I can’t stay at home?” scenario. Quite often a health crisis is the impetus for moving a parent into a senior residence, sending adult children scrambling to find the right one and adding high stress to an already emotional situation. “It’s also extremely upsetting for your parent to go into the hospital and then be told they can’t return home,” says Rayner. Get in front of this move before there’s an emergency; discuss your parent’s wishes and then pre-scan some senior residences.

Go On a Tour

After you’ve selected three to four residences for consideration, schedule a tour of each. Do you get a good feeling when you walk into the building? Is the staff friendly? Look at the kinds of activities offered on their recreation schedule, ask what services are available (housekeeping, laundry), what kind of care is provided, can they meet specific dietary needs (celiac, low-sodium, diabetic), and ask the residents what the food is like.

Be sure to inquire about programs that are important to your parent. For example, the private SL3 Trinity Lodge Retirement Residence aims to meet its residents’ religious expectations by offering daily chapel service, mass for Catholic residents and Shabbat services for Jewish residents. Trinity opened in 1975 and testament to its happy environment is the longevity of its staff, many of whom have remained for more than 20 years. In addition to its varied activity schedule, there is live entertainment, shopping trips and outings to Canmore and Okotoks, and visits by therapy dogs.

Started in 1961, Revera Retirement Living owns and operates 500 properties – seniors apartments, independent living, assisted living, memory care and long-term care – across North America and the United Kingdom. In Calgary, it has six retirement residences, with a seventh currently being built in Scenic Acres, and three long-term care homes.

Revera celebrates the ageless spirit of people, and its biggest social cause, Age is More, addresses ageism in society. Its Reel Youth learning program pairs seniors with youths from across the country to create short films, 170 to date, about important social issues. In holding true to its belief that everyone should have the opportunity to live a life of purpose, 800 of Revera’s employees are older than 65, working in sales and marketing, housekeeping, culinary services and recreation.

Says Rayner, “We focus on making it the residents’ place. We actively request what food they want us to be serving, what activities they’d like. Our chefs have also prepared meals from a resident’s personal recipe to give them that special moment. The reality is that we work in their home and not the other way around.”

Invite your parent to visit your top two choices, more than two becomes overwhelming. In fact, good residences encourage seniors to come for a complimentary trial stay, from overnight to up to a few days. “By partaking in an exercise class, trying the food, talking to the people who live there and meeting the staff, it gives your parent an idea of what life could look like for them in that community,” says Val Bracey, Trinity’s marketing manager.

Featuring stylish independent living, assisted living, enhanced care, palliative care and memory care, the Manor Village Life Centers are known for their exemplary programs for happy and fulfilling lifestyles. The Manor Villages in Calgary are reflecting the concept that senior living should not be institutional.

Garth Mann developed the Manor Villages because his mother was aging, and she insisted that she wanted to live in a happy atmosphere that provided exceptional services for exercise, entertainment, activities and socialization. Today, there are eight Manor Village Life Centers in Calgary and additional locations in London, Ontario and Arizona.

Part of daily living at the Manor Villages are the provisions for avoiding memory loss with aging, plus programs to avoid needless falls. Through the Academy of Aging, a non-profit Canadian society (focusing on the dynamics for healthy aging through the prevention of age-related chronic diseases), the residents of the Manor Villages are lowering their risk factors for falling. Kendra Kovacik RN is pleased to be the director for fall prevention for the residents at the Manor Villages.

The Brenda Strafford Foundation (BSF) owns and operates four senior care communities (Bow View, Wentworth, Clifton and Tudor) in and around Calgary, offering a combination of private and publicly-funded levels of care accommodation as well as the adult day program at most of its manors. Its fifth seniors wellness community, Cambridge Manor, is currently being built in the University District for a June opening. This predominantly privately-funded manor will offer assisted living, enhanced care and memory care.

Established in 1975 as a charitable organization, BSF’s core business and operations focus on senior care and wellness. A significant portion of its charitable contributions fund research and innovation in seniors care at the University of Calgary through the Brenda Strafford Centre on Aging, the BSF Chair in Geriatric Medicine and the BSF Chair in Alzheimer Research.

In conjunction with Alberta Health Services, Alberta Seniors and Housing and Alberta Innovates, BSF led the Dementia Friendly Communities project in September 2019. Part of this initiative included the development of a guide for businesses, civil society organizations and individuals to educate and provide strategies to support those living with dementia in the neighbourhoods in which BSF operates.

Who said seniors aren’t gamers? BSF was the first in Canada to implement Rendever, a virtual reality (VR) program designed specifically to provide mental stimulation for seniors, primarily those living with dementia. Led by a facilitator in a group setting, residents partake in VR adventure activities such as skydiving, flying a plane or swimming with dolphins.

“It can be used to create new experiences, like travelling to places on their bucket list, and it can be used to encourage the reliving and reminiscing of past experiences,” says Julie Arnold, BSF manager of communications and marketing. “With VR, a resident was able to travel back to his homeland of Germany and walk down a street from his childhood.” The experience of being immersed in a familiar place or activity can be a calming therapy.

With Wii bowling, maître d’ seating in elegant dining rooms, specialized health-care aids on site, art therapy … it really is a great time to be a senior in Calgary!


If you’re unsure of the level of care your parent requires request Alberta Health Services’ (AHS) Home Care to assess your parent at home. If your parent is in the hospital, AHS’ Transition Services conducts the assessment.

The private system offers many different care and living options and controls the assessment and placement of residents. AHS exclusively manages the assessment and placement of seniors, based on their top three choices, to its publicly-funded care designations.


SL1 Independent Living (mainly private): a.k.a. retirement living, where residents manage on their own without health-care staff.

SL2 Supportive Living (mainly private): no health staff on site, but residents may receive care for personal hygiene or health-care needs, from either Home Care or a private agency.

SL3 Designated Supported Living: 24-hour health staff on site.

SL4 Supportive Living: 24-hour health staff on site handling more complex medical needs.

SL4D: people living with dementia.

Long-Term Care: (a.k.a. nursing homes) supports individuals with highly-complex and unpredictable health needs whose care cannot be safely provided in their own homes or in designated supportive living.

AHS Adult Day Program: some residences offer recreational activities, health monitoring, social interaction and a meal during the day; it also serves to give respite to caregivers.


The Housing Directory for Seniors
– an invaluable resource for researching senior accommodations.
– published annually by the Kerby Centre, a not-for-profit organization that provides services, information and programming for older adults.
– lists all the different types of housing in Calgary along with prices, amenities, care services, transportation options, neighbourhood features, etc.
– available online, at the Kerby Centre, and at Co-op, Sobeys and Safeway newsstands.

Seniors Directory of Services
– published by the Kerby Centre.
– lists health and recreational community programs and services, contact information for government departments such as tax, pensions, health benefits, citizenship and immigration.

The Calgary Seniors’ Resource Society; Carya; the Kerby Centre
– can assist in navigating the realm of senior living, plus other services.