Being elderly should be synonymous with tranquility, dignity, and happiness. Living with the certainty that the reward after a lifetime of work and dedication is to finally rest happily. Therefore, when we reach that stage of our life, is absolutely essential to have a home that welcomes us, comforts us, keeps us company, and really cares about us. Not all of us have children, and not all children can take on the responsibility or have the availability to look after us 24/7. That’s why a residence that welcomes us, speaks our language, cooks our food, represents our culture and customs, is unquestionably essential for our well-being.
As a multicultural country, Canada has supported the opening of culturally dedicated institutions in order to give the various ethnic groups the opportunity to take care of their elders in the best possible way.
What the Portuguese community is now trying to provide for their seniors with the Magellan project, has already been a reality in other ethnic groups for many years. Sienna Senior Living is an institution who is passionate about helping seniors live to their fullest, with homes not only in Ontario, but also in British Columbia. They have extensive experience in doing this kind of work in a culturally dedicated way – either for the Italian community or for communities with specific religious convictions.
Given their experience of more than 50 years, it seemed appropriate to us to understand from Nadia Daniell-Colarossi, manager, media relations and communications at Sienna Senior Living, how these types of institutions actually work and what advantages their existence brings to the communities they target.
Milénio Stadium: What kind of services does Sienna Senior Living offer that distinguishes it from other long-term facilities?
Nadia Daniell-Colarossi: Sienna Senior Living offers the full range of seniors’ living options that allow individuals to enjoy the highest quality of life. Regardless of health or level of independence, our retirement homes and care communities provide all of the programs and services seniors need. This includes fully independent living, assisted living, long-term care and memory care.
We are proud to care for residents from diverse communities and to be able to offer culturally specific environments. Examples include Villa Da Vinci Retirement Residence, a retirement home with a large Italian population, Kensington Place Retirement Residence, a kosher certified community, and an Armenia home area within Fieldstone Commons Care Community.
MS: What testimony can you give us about the importance of the existence of culturally specific homes for the elderly?
NDC: Sienna strives to be an inclusive place for team members and residence, instilling much pride in our homes. Our ability to integrate culturally specific services and programs into both long-term care and retirement communities creates a comforting, home-like setting where residents can thrive. Residents’ family members also feel engaged in the care of their loved one and assured that their needs are being met.
The ability of residents to communicate with staff in their first language, receive religious services from community members and enjoy traditional foods all contribute to their overall well-being.
The feedback from residents is that they enjoy being part of a community where they can communicate in their native language and share the same culture, beliefs, and traditions. For family members, it’s important their loved ones socialize and maintain relationships with others from the same culture.
MS: Is the issue related to the difficulty of speaking or understanding English still a determining factor when choosing a long-term care home?
NDC: Yes, it is crucial for some individuals to communicate in their first language, and it is one of their criteria when selecting a retirement residence or long-term care community.
MS: Besides the usual care of a long-term facility, are there other concerns in your institution, such as the preservation of Italian culture? How have you been able to achieve this goal?
NDC: In all of our culturally specific long-term care and retirement communities, we take steps to ensure residents experience as many aspects of the culture as possible. To achieve this, we ensure there are team members who can speak the same language and that residents are well connected to their community outside the home. We also work closely with the families of residents who play an important role in us understanding cultural needs, translation and providing support.
Prior to the pandemic, volunteers from the community played an important role in helping residents stay connected with their culture. We look forward to resuming these types of activities when it is safe to do so again. At Villa Da Vinci, Kensington Place and Fieldstone Commons, we encourage residents to connect with their culture through religious activities, programs, activities, communication, traditions, festivities, and food.
MS: Does it still makes sense to have long term care home with these characteristics (Italian language, gastronomy, and traditions) for your community?
NDC: Being able to provide culturally specific seniors living options is very important, and we are proud to do this. Villa Da Vici is a great example. It is located in the City of Vaughn, where there is a large Italian-Canadian population. This residence has been serving the Italian community for close to 20 years.
MS: These are institutions that require great care and investment, not only at the time of construction but also throughout their existence. How has it been possible for Sienna Senior Living to guarantee the economic subsistence of your facility?
NDC: Sienna is a 50-year-old company with more than 13,000 team members. It is one of the largest operators in the senior living sector operating and managing 83 long-term care communities and retirement residences in Ontario and British Columbia. It is a tremendous privilege and a great responsibility to care for and serve Canada’s seniors, ensuring they live with utmost comfort, dignity and respect.
MS: What advice could you give to the Portuguese community, who are about to realize a dream of building a facility dedicated to the elderly, which guarantees the connection to their culture, language, and traditions?
NDC: Sienna’s retirement residences and long-term care homes are tight-knit communities that are supported by dedicated team members who are passionate about helping seniors live to their fullest. A holistic focus on resident needs, including their physical health and emotional well-being, is critical to ensuring every individual can achieve the highest quality of life.