All in the Family: Canadian Facility Brings Skilled Nursing, Condo Living Together

A new residence in British Columbia is making retirement a matter for the whole family. And that includes those who might need care on an around-the-clock basis.

The Opal residence from Element Lifestyle Retirement, which provides management services for senior retirement communities, is projected to be completed in February 2019. It features 44 residential condominium units, 56 rental units, and 30 complex care units. Each suite needs just one person who is 55 or older, which lets whole families make the move if they so desire.

“We’re not going to require that every person in there is a certain age and above, so all of the municipalities that we’ve worked with… they’ve all accommodated by allowing just one resident to be of a certain age or need,” Candy Ho, director and vice president of marketing and corporate relations at Element, told Skilled Nursing News.


In Canada, “complex care” is defined as 24/7 registered nursing provided in a licensed environment, with the goal of meeting unscheduled needs on a long-term basis, Ho explained.

The staffing ratio requirements can vary by region; at Opal, management tends to settle on one staff member for every five residents, though Ho noted that the exact ratio can vary based on resident profile.  

For these complex care units, the cost would be approximately $8,500 (CAD) per month, but the price can also vary depending on the nursing needs of the resident, Ho noted.


“We’re not really charging for the suite itself, because the most expensive component by far of licensed care is clearly the staff,” she said.

All of the units are private-pay, but that hasn’t tamped down demand: Of the condos, 78% have been sold, while 91% of rental units have been reserved. Element is taking reservations for the 30 complex care units, and just over a dozen of those have been taken, Ho said.

Long-term care based in a facility is not publicly insured under the Canada Health Act, according to Health Canada’s website, and services and cost coverage vary by province. Another factor could be wait times, since licensed care is more driven by need than want, according to Ho.

“The wait list for licensed care from the government or nonprofits is many years long,” she said. “People just get what they can.”

Element has two other residences in progress besides Opal: one in Victoria, British Columbia, and another in the township of Langley in the same province, with a range of resident profiles. Opal, for instance, is geared toward “upper- to middle-income” residents, many of whom have reaped the benefits of rapidly rising home prices and can thus afford higher-end retirement options.

Experts in the U.S. have floated the intergenerational SNF idea as the future of nursing homes, but getting there could prove a challenge. In skilled-only facilities that serve a mix of short-term rehabilitation and long-term care residents, the younger rehabbers aren’t necessarily interested in creating a community, experts said — even if operators and designers try to entice them with bistros, coffee shops, and hair salons.

But at Opal, the focus is on keeping generations together in a way that can satisfy seniors who don’t want to leave home — by making home a place where those in need of nursing care can easily get it. And so even though the residents are paying for the residence out of pocket, it’s because they’re seeking something that a standard nursing facility can’t provide.

“The most common denominator is very tight-knit but large families that want to care for the family together,” Ho said.

Written by Maggie Flynn

Companies featured in this article: