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$34 million gift from Kathleen Sheret to Victoria Eldercare
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$34 million gift from Kathleen Sheret to Victoria Eldercare

The Greater Victoria Eldercare Foundation, dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for seniors, has received a $34-million donation, one of the largest legacy gifts to be dedicated to seniors care in Canada.

“These funds come at a critical time for seniors,” said Lori McLeod, executive director of the foundation.

“They are living longer but the cost of housing has risen, food has gone up but their pensions haven’t. With this bequest we can continue to provide them with the programs and support they need to age with dignity.”

The foundation provides items and resources that seniors’ facilities often lack in their budgets — such as specialized equipment — and programs for seniors in the community.

The foundation, which has provided care for the elderly for more than 40 years, provides support to more than 700 residents at Aberdeen, Glengarry, Priory/Heritage Woods and The Summit long-term care facilities. It also funds the Yakimovich Wellness Centre, which offers in-person and virtual information sessions for seniors, and the Piercy Respite Hotel.

The foundation’s community programs help seniors stay in their own homes longer. Seniors can socialize at day programs or sign up for a community bathing program. Those living independently can enrol in the Safe Lifeline program, which provides a medical alarm service for seniors at risk.

In addition, the foundation supports public education, and funds research awards and scholarships for staff.

The foundation, established in 1982 as the Juan de Fuca Hospitals Foundation, has two full-time, one part-time and one contract employee. It reports to a 14-member board of directors. The foundation has about 110 members.

“We are so grateful for Ms. Sheret’s generosity and the positive impact it will have in allowing people to age with dignity,” said McLeod.

“We will be strategic and carefully craft any initiatives but we do know that, with this gift, and the support of our current and future donors, the Eldercare Foundation will continue to lead and effect the changes that are desperately needed for seniors care in our region. It is, and will be, transformative.”

While McLeod said there are no immediate plans for the money, she hopes it will attract more, with the idea of using it to shape government policy.

“We have been entrusted with this money and want to spend it in the best way — and with the deepest impact,” said McLeod.

“There is a tremendous pressure on the care system right now. More and more people are getting old and we have to be prepared to look after them. We have the opportunity to impact change now, so that in 10 to 20 years from now we will have the support for those seniors.”

Most of the province’s seniors are relatively healthy, she said, but programs and services will feel increasing pressures as baby boomers reach their 80s.

The organization says it will continue to seek partners and fund more programs that serve seniors’ needs.

McLeod’s wish is for all levels of government and other stakeholders to formulate policy that addresses seniors’ concerns over food security, housing and other issues.

“While we have much work to do, with this money, we may get the ear of whoever can impact change for the greater good,” she said. “It is an issue relevant for all of us.”

Photo: Lori McLeod of the Victoria Eldercare Foundation

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