Home News Canada It will take a village to remodel seniors home

It will take a village to remodel seniors home

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Mayer Michalowicz, left, and David Horwood expect a "financially intense" term as co-presidents of Shalom Village. (Wendy Schneider/ Hamilton Jewish News photo)

Big changes are coming to Hamilton, Ont., which houses the largest Jewish old age home in Canada outside Toronto.

In just over six years, Shalom Village’s 127-bed long-term care unit will be completely remodelled as part of a provincial drive to make such facilities feel more like homes than institutions.

For new board chairs David Horwood and Mayer Michalowicz, that means their term of office is going to be keenly focused on raising money.

“Our term is going to be financially intense,” Michalowicz said in a recent interview. “But, at the end, we’re going to have financial assets that will be good for 50 years, so there’s no need to strain to pay for it all at once.”

In 2015, the Ontario government ordered a 10-year process of upgrading nursing homes such as the long-term care wing at Shalom Village. Goals of the initiative include eliminating rooms with three or four beds, increasing the floor space of rooms and requiring more en suite washrooms, among other new standards.

Exactly what work will be required at Shalom Village, and how much it will cost, is still being studied. Construction work is expected to start in five years and take two years to complete. The redevelopment requirement does not apply to the facility’s 81 apartment units.

The redevelopment plan will be led by a new board of directors – almost one-third of the board has turned over since 2017. Boards in the past were dominated by health-care professionals and academics, but the majority has now tilted to younger members with broader business experience. For outgoing chair Yael Arnold, that’s a significant change.

“We have a very optimistic feeling at the governance level now,” she said. “Unfortunately, there’s no influx of new funding to help us do this, but we have a target date.”

Horwood and Michalowicz represent those changes. Horwood is vice-president of financial intermediary Effort Trust, with years of experience in property redevelopment and management. Michalowicz is an accountant.

“We have an excellent facility here with a strong reputation for care, but being five years away from a major redevelopment requires a very different mindset than we’ve had in the past,” Horwood said. “This project is very much part of Hamilton’s renewal.

“Now is the time for us to be as lean and as efficient as possible,” he added.

While plans and costs are being studied for the physical work required, Michalowicz and Horwood, along with the organization’s charitable arm, the Shalom Village Charitable Foundation, are laying plans for their community appeal.

“We’re hoping to keep the final campaign to a reasonable ask,” Michalowicz said.

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Originally incorporated in 1974 as the Hamilton Jewish Home for the Aged, Shalom Village’s first facility was a single home on Queen Street South. Construction on the Macklin Street campus started in 1980, with the first five residents arriving in December 1981. The building officially opened in 1982. The nursing home component opened in 1990.

Despite its Jewish beginnings, non-Jews occupy about 30 per cent of the facility’s apartment units and 70 per cent of its long-term care beds. There are also 75 people taking part in day programs and 132 people from the community using the fitness club. The facility employs 258 staff.

Leaders say those statistics could be a blessing or a challenge because they allow the fundraising campaign to reach beyond the Jewish community for support, but may also deter some Jewish donors from participating wholeheartedly.

For Horwood, that resistance will be countered by Shalom Village’s Jewish tradition. “Our fundamental values remain very deeply entrenched,” he said.