Unique Surrey seniors facility needs to expand, says CEO of society that runs it

Published: September 3, 2013
AssistedLiving_Guru nANAK nIWAS

Unique Surrey seniors facility needs to expand, says CEO of society that runs it. Photo: Fraser Health

ELAINE O’CONNOR
VANCOUVER DESI 

The difference between care at a traditional seniors home and care in Surrey’s Guru Nanak Niwas seniors facility starts with 72,000 chapatis.

That’s the number of flatbreads served each year to residents in the city’s lone assisted-living facility geared specifically to South Asian and immigrant seniors.

The centre, which opened in 2007 and houses residents from 19 cultures, also has staff that speak five languages. It serves ethnic food, celebrates major Christian, Hindu, Sikh and Muslim holidays and holds cultural events.

Yet the facility, run by the city’s Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society (PICS), can only house seniors suited to its 77 independent and 49 assisted living units. Those who develop complex medical issues must be transferred out.

“In a long-term facility, on average they last only a couple months. When they go from here they are just lost, they give up,” said administrator Inderjeet Hundal.

PICS founder and CEO Charan Gill wants to change that by building a $12-million, 75-bed long-term-care facility for ethnic seniors.

“We have a gap in services here in Surrey,” Gill said. “We need to have a place for them where in the end of their years they can live comfortably and dignified.”

He hopes to secure a long-term lease with the city for a one-acre plot of land near the existing facility on 120A St. in R.A. Nicholson Park. They hope to open the new facility by 2015.

The PICS proposal raises questions about how Surrey can best meet the needs of the growing numbers of ethnic seniors.

Census figures show that as of 2011, 12.1 per cent, or 56,570 of Surrey’s 468,251 residents, were over 65. That figure is projected to rise to 17.8 per cent by 2021.

A 2013 United Way seniors report revealed that from 2000 to 2010, 2,100 new immigrant seniors settled in Surrey. And as of 2011, some 9,600 Surrey seniors did not speak English.

Gill said that without tailored services, social and cultural isolation will hamper their quality of life.

“Our seniors cannot live longer and be happy,” he said, “if their culture and food and customs and religion are not appreciated.”

The society aims to make a presentation to the city’s social policy advisory committee in the next few months.

eoconnor@theprovince.com

twitter.com/elaine_oconnor

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