Fifty years ago, Altamont Care Community opened its doors. Today, it’s clear that the people who call Altamont home will always be able to count on one thing: each other.
“I think this is a real family,” Debbie Rivett, executive director of Altamont Care Community in West Hill, said. She’s sitting in her office with Saira Haq, the resident relations coordinator, exchanging pictures from the day’s festivities.
She couldn’t be more right.
From the receptionist at the front desk, to the residents, personal support workers (PSWs), families and the chefs in the kitchen, Altamont screams family. The walls are teaming with stories as thick as the ivy in the garden, and it seems everyone is smiling.
“If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t stay here,” Amy, a PSW at Altamont, said. “I love the residents. I love looking after them and taking care of them.”
Amy has been a PSW at Altamont for 43 years. She began working at Altamont after coming to Canada from Jamaica. She said she got all her experience here. It was her first job in Canada.
“So many things have changed with time,” Amy said about Altamont. “Yet it’s almost the same.”
Muriel, a resident at Altamont for 44 years, has the same view. “Just the people have changed,” she said from her customary seat by the front desk. Muriel has been at Altamont longer than any other resident, and often sings. A plaque on a wall near the entrance dubs her the ‘Altamont greeter’ and claims she knows the words to any song.
Just across the hall from Muriel sits Linda, who has been the receptionist for 27 years. Linda often gets to enjoy Muriel’s tunes.
“I think it’s exciting,” Linda said about the 50-year anniversary. “It’s all about the good care provided over the years, and the fact that we’re still here!”
Linda can still remember her first day of work. She started as a casual receptionist, and wasn’t sure if she’d want the position, but by the end of her first day she was hooked. “I loved being here and being with the residents,” she said with a smile.
Altamont held a party in honour of their 50th anniversary. All of the residents, staff and some family gathered around to enjoy cake, snacks and hear a few words about the community.
Lois Cormack, CEO of Sienna Senior Living, spoke at the event and congratulated Altamont on their achievement of providing excellent care for so many years, saying, “You make it a very special time for all the resident’s while they’re here.”
During the celebration, Altamont received a congratulatory certificate from a representative for Tracy MacCharles, MPP for Pickering-Scarborough East, in acknowledgement of their milestone anniversary.
Patty Write, vice president of operations at Sienna Senior Living, also spoke at the event, and reminded everyone that back when Altamont opened in 1966, it was an entirely different world. The first ATM machine had just opened, Star Trek was making its premier and the CBC became the first Canadian station to broadcast in colour. “Thank you for honouring our seniors’ voices,” she said.
Elinor watched the proceedings from in the crowd, a small smile on her face. She’s been a resident for less than a year, but says the care community is just like home.
“Everyone calls everyone by their first name, and if they see you in the hallway they always stop to say hello,” Elinor said. “It feels like home.”
When Elinor moved in, she had no idea that an old friend would be preparing her meals.
Charlene and Elinor worked together as cooks for years. Charlene was fresh out of high school at the time, and Elinor well into her career. The two hadn’t seen each other in 27 years, since Elinor’s retirement in 1989. Now, Charlene works as a cook at Altamont, and the duo were reconnected when Elinor moved in.
“I’m glad I chose to live here,” Elinor said with a smile, Charlene at her side.