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Aging in the community: Cory’s story

Jennifer Pass
Cory, with his Jubilee House assistant in charge, Manu. Photo supplied

Jennifer Pass

Special to the Record

Years ago I was quite involved with the L’Arche community in the Comox Valley.

Under the skillful guidance of well-known educator Lock Mawhinney, our fledgling board was determined to bring L’Arche to our community. And Cory, an adult with developmental disabilities, was just as determined. We would attend meetings in other locations and Cory would come with us and always say “We need a home.”

Eventually, in 2000 we bit the bullet and purchased a house in Courtenay. Soon Cory and then three others moved in. Assistants were hired to live-in and help with activities of daily living. Cory has now lived in Jubilee House for 22 of his 63 years. His three housemates have lived there almost as long. Although the live-in assistants come and go, the present assistant in charge (house leader), Manu, has been at Jubilee for 13 years.

Cory likes living in Jubilee House and he still refers to it as “my new home.” He likes having friends, both living in the house and able to visit. He likes the patio. He is the only resident of Jubilee House who goes to the day program at Beaufort Association. While there is a day program at L’Arche, at the “I Belong” Centre, Cory has chosen to continue going to Beaufort, where he has long-time friends. He has been attending their day program for 23 years.

Cory’s favourite activities are playing the piano and the guitar – which he enjoys doing on Tuesday evenings and at parties and events at the I Belong Centre. He enjoys going out for tea with friends.

Cory is aging in place, with help from the assistants and the L’Arche community in the Comox Valley. In all likelihood Cory will be able to spend the rest of his days in Jubilee House. Of course, there are situations where specific issues may make care too difficult for the assistants so a move to a facility would have to be contemplated.

Why is this “aging in place” in a home like situation so important? In the not-too-distant past, adults with developmental disabilities — differently-abled is the proper term — who could not live with their family, often lived in large anonymous institutions, with all the potential problems one associates with such living quarters.

If we need care as we age, we all want to live in our own home or in a small home-like place with just a few people, and those who are differently-abled feel just the same — but they sometimes have to live with others who are not related to them much earlier in life than we do.

Those of us in Comox Valley Elders Take Action, and more effectively, those in the Ontario group Seniors for Social Action Ontario advocate for aging at home with care brought in, and for small family-like homes (like Jubilee House) in situations where home care is not appropriate.

We advocate against large institutional long-term care homes, (which interestingly are no long labeled as “residential care facilities” because of the obvious risk of association with residential schools). We are heartened to see the L’Arche model successfully provide this “family style” of care for differently-abled adults in our community. And to have continued to provide this care in the Valley for the last 22 years.

May it provide a model for the care needed for our elders.

(Jennifer Pass is the co-ordinator of Comox Valley Elders Take Action)