CLOVERDALE — Charan Gill’s eyes light up when he talks about PICS Diversity Village.
When he founded the Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society in 1987, it had just $80. Today, the planned $30-million five-storey 140-bed seniors’ care facility, to be located at 175th Street and 64th Avenue, is the largest project his organization has ever undertaken.
The facility will provide urgently needed long-term care for seniors from all walks of life, taking social, cultural and dietary needs into account.
“One of the innovative things we’re doing is we will have 14 villages. Clusters. Ten rooms in each. Chinese, Filipino, Caucasian, doesn’t matter…. We are going to try to accommodate Syrians, any new group coming in,” said Gill. “We are embracing everybody.”
PICS already operates two seniors facilities in Surrey – a 49-unit assisted living complex and a 77-unit independent living site – which house people of 15 different ethnicities, largely South Asian. But the planned Diversity Village would provide a higher level of care.
Inderjeet Hundal, administrator of PICS’ existing care homes, said culturally sensitive longterm care is desperately needed. He said he’s seen several seniors pass away soon after leaving assisted living and suspects it’s due to isolation.
“They hardly survive three or four months,” remarked Hundal. “They’re not able to speak the language, they’re not able to get the food they have eaten all of their lives, and they’re isolated.”
PICS says Fraser Health hospitals currently house 150 South Asian seniors, and their facility would not only ease hospital overcrowding but would save taxpayers roughly $1,000 a day, per senior. “Here it’s not even $200 a day,” noted Hundal.
The project also includes a child care facility with 75 spaces, amenity space for residents and the community, religious assembly areas, a coffee and gift shop and a hair dresser.
The facility and its programming is in demand as the average age of the population is increasing, according to a report to Surrey council, which called the need “critical.” And the need is expected to grow. Metro Vancouver projects households led by persons over 65 years old will jump from about 19 per cent in 2006 to 32 per cent by 2031.
Eighty-five-year-old Saroj Sood, pictured, has lived at PICS’ assisted-living facility since 2007. She had a friend transition to longterm care and said it was hard to watch him deteriorate.
“He couldn’t talk to anybody. And when the food comes to the table, he used to cry. He was so agitated,” said Sood. “At the end of life, you have to be comfortable. That’s every human being’s right but you don’t get it because there’s language barrier, the food, there’s no companions, nothing. What life it could be? Whenever I visited him I used to cry.”
Sood loves that diversity is respected at PICS. “We eat together, we talk together, we exercise together, we do everything together. And we have our programs. The Punjabis and Fijians, we get together and sing songs. We do some meditation, too. Ismaili’s, they also have their own program,” said Sood. “The most beautiful thing for this assisted living is we are from so many countries and so many colours and at the same time, we are one.”
The project is hoped to be completed in 2018. To donate to the project, visit picsdiversityvillage.com.