Côte St. Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein is stepping in after a second kosher seniors’ residence in that city owned by a large corporation announced that it’s about to close.
Chartwell Retirement Residences told residents and staff on May 3 that the Castel Royal will cease operation in exactly one year, leaving stunned families wondering where their elderly, often frail, relatives will live.
Brownstein calls it is “an injustice” and is seeking a meeting with the owners.
Chartwell cited the deteriorating condition of the building for the closure. It has promised to help residents find new accommodations and compensate them for moving costs.
The highrise on Cavendish Boulevard has approximately 171 residents and 75 staff members, Sharon Henderson, Chartwell’s Toronto-based vice-president of communications and public affairs, said. Occupancy is well below capacity for the 250-unit building.
The 132-unit Manoir Montefiore shut down in February. Owner Réseau Sélection said the reason was that many of the 78 remaining residents required more care than the residence was designed to provide, when the announcement was made last June.
Brownstein was scheduled to meet with Réseau representatives on May 13 and preferred not to comment until after then. He said at the May 9 council meeting that there are developers and real estate agents interested in trying discussing solutions with the owners.
Gloria Schwartz, whose 93-year-old widowed father has lived at Castel Royal for three years, said she was shocked by the news. “There was no meeting of residents or relatives to discuss the situation or answer questions… Chartwell is apparently more concerned with profits than with caring for the elderly.”
She worries that any move will be traumatic for her father and the other residents, who are mostly in their 80s and 90s. Many like him are Holocaust survivors.
“It just seems mean to shuttle people around at this stage of their lives…It’s a sad state of affairs for the Jewish community of Montreal,” she said.
She also has an aunt there who moved in recently.
Schwartz does not know where her father, who uses a walker, but is otherwise quite autonomous, will go. Although he doesn’t keep strictly kosher, he wants to live in a Jewish milieu, and the choices are very limited.
Castel Royal has a synagogue and offers structured activities and holiday celebrations. Nursing care is extra.
She is not surprised the company is blaming the deterioration of the premises and the expense of maintenance. She witnessed two massive water-pipe bursts, one requiring evacuation of all residents even though it was winter, and loss of electricity and heat.
“My father tells me the alarm is always going off about something,” she said.
Henderson issued this statement: “We deeply regret the impact of this decision on our residents, their loved ones and our staff, and will be actively working with all impacted individuals to support and assist them through the transition.
“Every effort will be undertaken to assist residents with their move to the retirement residence of their choice, including nearby Jewish residences, and all moving details, from locating an alternate residence, to packing and unpacking, as well as transportation of personal items, will be managed by a reputable seniors’ relocation company at no cost to our residents.”
Chartwell describes itself as the largest operator of retirement homes in Canada with more than 175 locations in four provinces.
Henderson said the company bought the Castel Royal, originally a regular apartment building, in 2006 and has invested “significantly” in it over the past decade “in the hopes of offering high quality and respectful Jewish retirement living to the seniors of Côte St. Luc.”
However, as Schwartz attested, the building has obvious maintenance problems. Henderson said there were four floods this winter alone due to plumbing issues, and the ventilation and electrical systems and elevators have frequent breakdowns and it’s difficult to find replacement parts.
Schwartz, who lives in Ottawa, said she has looked into the Waldorf, which is also in Côte St. Luc and kosher, but it’s not only more expensive (her father was a factory worker), it’s also full, because many former Manoir Montefiore residents were relocated there.
“The person who answered the phone laughed when asked what the wait time is,” she said. The Waldorf is owned by Réseau Sélection.
Chartwell has several other residences in the Montreal area, but none that are kosher. The closest to Côte St. Luc is in Outremont.
“Most expected the Castel Royal to be their last home,” said Schwartz. “Now these seniors have to prepare to leave their friends and the place they call ‘home’ and start over again. Some will be forced to move further away from children, some to non-Jewish residences… Some may find the stress of the uncertainty and impending change overwhelming, even damaging to their health.”
Retired social worker Sharon Freedman, an activist for more services to vulnerable seniors, feels the lack of affordable, assisted-living options for the Jewish elderly, is reaching a crisis. She is urging Federation CJA to act on this issue. It is the primary funder of Caldwell Residences, three apartment complexes in Côte St. Luc and Snowdon, which, she says, need renovating to meet the increasing needs of lower-income seniors, who may require some care.