Health services for seniors in the Columbia Valley are looking up with the introduction of 34 new residential care beds to the Columbia Garden Village in Invermere. On Wednesday (May 16), a groundbreaking ceremony celebrating the start of construction on the units took place at the seniors’ complex, where 55 independent living and eight assisted living suites are already in place. The new beds are expected to be ready by spring 2013.

“Golden Life is very proud to be working with Interior Health and Columbia Basin Trust to provide the additional beds to the Columbia Valley,” Celeste Mullin, the Chief Operating Officer for Golden Life Management, said in a press release. Golden Life is a leading provider of seniors living communities, according to the company’s website, and the operator of Columbia Garden Village. “Everything from the design of our buildings to the care and compassion our staff put into their work every day provides our residents the opportunity to live their best life.”

Residential care beds offer a higher level of care to seniors requiring 24/7 attention. Currently, there are an existing 35 beds at the Columbia House Long-term Care Facility, also in Invermere, which is owned and operated by Interior Health. Twelve temporary beds were added to the Invermere & District Hospital in 2010 in an attempt to meet the community’s needs and these temporary beds will close when the new ones open.

“The space that will be vacated, we’re looking at a plan around utilization of that space but it won’t be for additional beds, certainly that’s not in the plan at any time,” said Erica Phillips, Health Service Administrator for Golden and Invermere & District hospitals.

The addition of the 34 residential beds to Invermere is part of a broader plan by Interior Health to introduce 500 new beds across the southern interior in order to provide improved services for seniors in the region.

“This is really good for Invermere and areas part of that plan,” David Goldsmith, the Interior Health board member who attended the groundbreaking, told The Valley Echo. “Invermere has an aging population —  all of B.C. does; seniors are a growing portion.”

With the addition of the new beds to the Columbia Garden Village plus the existing 35 at Columbia House, the community will have a total of 69 residential care beds by 2013.  In the past, Interior Health has partnered with Golden Life Management and Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) to build assisted living and residential care villages in Cranbrook, Creston, Fernie, Kimberley, Trail, Castlegar, Nelson, and Fruitvale.

“CBT is proud to be part of this expansion that is helping to increase the number of homes available for seniors living in this region,” said Johnny Strilaeff, CBT Vice-President of Investments in the release.