TRURO – A peek into H.A. Johnson Manor’s lounge this week offered insight into a gathering that many people cherish on a regular basis.
About a dozen people sat in a semi-circle laughing, singing and co-ordinating hand movements to old favourites such as She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain.
The manor, located on Church Street in Truro, celebrated its 20th anniversary this week. With the milestone comes a request for the community to recognize the facility’s uniqueness, said Donna Dickson, support co-ordinator of H.A. Johnson Manor.
“There is no other subsidized program like it in Nova Scotia and there is a live-in support co-ordinator,” said Dickson, referring to her position, which has many benefits for tenants.
One is continuous programming, such as recreation, that “promotes mental and physical health.” Another is keeping the office open weekdays to support tenants’ independence needs. Thirdly, a live-in position offers assistance with medical emergencies “24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Dickson.
“There’s a two minute response time in an emergency,” said Dickson of her live-in status. On the weekend there are on-call staff who have a little longer response time.
“I don’t understand why we are the only ones to have (this live-in system), especially with an aging population,” Dickson said.
Tenant and co-president of the manor, Eileen Sullivan, 85, has been blessed by Dickson’s live-in status.
“I had one emergency call … I was having a heart attack … and it made me feel very good (Donna) was living here and helped so fast,” said Sullivan, who has lived in the manor since 1994. “It would have been worse if I lived elsewhere because I’d have to wait.”
Living an independent life, with a little support, is another advantage, said Dickson.
“The general thought (by the public) is that this is a nursing home. It’s not. It fills the gap between complete independence and assisted living,” she said of the facility that houses 24 tenants and has a waiting list.
Dickson said one personal goal is to become more visible in the community. One example, she said, is to expand networking within the community.
“We have established links in the community, for example, that help us get hearing aids at little or no cost for some tenants. I’d like that to expand.”
Dickson also wants the seniors at the manor to feel they have a place in the community.
“I want the voice of the seniors to be heard more. As seniors age their voices are heard less and less and then they become less willing to share and become isolated, withdrawn and it affects their mental health.”
Dickson said one example of recent empowerment for manor tenants were when they went to the Truro Daily News and town officials about fixing some sidewalks in the downtown. Action was taken to fix those areas complained about.
Tenant Donna Archibald said that experience was instrumental in helping the residents feel relevant.
“It makes me feel like we are being listened to and helping improve things. We want to have a voice and I’m going to make things happen,” said Archibald.
Jane MacGillivary, tenant and co-president of the manor’s tenant association, added having more interaction with the community gives purpose and a sense of relevance.
“You feel like you can do things on your own,” said MacGillivary.
Going into the future, the women said they would welcome more opportunities.
“I’d like to see more programs, more people come do talks from the community. I’d like people to know we are here,” said Archibald.