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VALLEY SENIORS: Abbeyfield celebrates 20 years in Port Alberni

The Port Alberni society opened its home to welcome 18 residents on Aug. 26, 2002
Elsie Forbes is a resident of Abbeyfield. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)



“Our main goal is to provide comfort and a pleasant atmosphere to the residents”, says Dave Cowan, president of the board of directors of Abbeyfield Port Alberni, a home that is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month.

Cowan, an electric contractor who has served as a board member since 2020, has led this volunteer group in a variety of new projects aimed to improve the structure and look of the building, such as the installation of new windows and several new electrical devices, among other things.

Abbeyfield Port Alberni is part of an international organization dedicated to providing safe and affordable housing for independent seniors. It is among the 20 Abbeyfield houses in Canada, from Ontario to British Columbia, with more in development.

Abbeyfield houses are each operated by a local society with a volunteer board of directors. Staff are employed to look after household duties such as meal preparation and maintenance of the common areas within the house and the external property. Residents each have their own room and share dining and sitting rooms, kitchen and laundry facilities.

The Port Alberni society opened its home to welcome its first 18 residents on Aug. 26, 2002. The event marked the end of a long and hectic process led by Terry Whyte, founder of the society in our community and the one who successfully managed to rescue the old hospital’s extended care unit building from demolition, thus making it available as a new home for seniors. This was the beginning of a dream come true for many seniors in the Alberni Valley. Marlene Dietrich, now a retired member of the board and its past president, along with Doreen Bessette (past vice president) and a team of hard working volunteers, played a decisive role in the early stages of this local organization.

Abbeyfield Port Alberni is now home to 22 residents. The residents, the primary focus of staff and volunteers, enjoy a meaningful life by taking part in the decisions that affect their living conditions. The staff cater to their social needs and to their continued involvement in the community by scheduling home activities and regular bus trips.

“Abbeyfield is the best place that I could have come to at this time in my life,” says one resident, Elsie Forbes.

It is important to affirm that Abbeyfield Port Alberni adheres to the Canada Guiding Principles:

- Seniors often seek companionship and practical support in their daily living while remaining integrated in the larger community.

- The seniors have an important role to play in the lives of their families, friends and community.

- Individuals can secure a happy life within the companionship of other seniors.

The local board of directors plays an important role in the management and leadership of the society since its incorporation. Several of its members are also regular volunteers in the home, from conducting sessions and providing entertainment to assisting the residents with garden projects.

“This has been a terrific retirement experience, meeting and working with so many worthy and interesting people—including board members, our great staff and most of all, the residents,” said Marjorie Jarrett, the secretary of the board of directors for Alberni Valley Abbeyfield Society.

Gayla Gallanar and Tracy Adams, the two managers of the home, are now in the process of coordinating activities to celebrate “Abbeyfield 20th anniversary” at a special event.

“It is an honor to be part of Port Alberni Abbeyfield House,” said Gallanar. “I am able to witness first hand the kindness, caring and giving of oneself from each of the residents.”

Cowan also comments that unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic affected the normal operation of the home, especially the day-to-day activities.

“Many of the regular programs and the loss of direct contact with families and friends was a hard reality the residents had to endure during these uncertain times,” he said. “Fortunately, things are getting back to normal!”

New members to serve on the board are always welcome.

David Cowan, President of the Board of Directors for Abbeyfield Port Alberni. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)