Villa residents must move as hotel takes hold

·3 min read

A former downtown hotel turned retirement residence, is reverting to its original form – and now residents must find a new place to live.

Residents of the Medicine Hat Retirement Villa, located on Fourth Street SE, were notified earlier this week that facility health-care and residential services would be ending on Aug. 31 and they will have to move into new accommodations by that date.

Once the Medicine Hat Inn, the villa is a combined independent living and Levels 1 and 2 assisted-living facility for individuals aged 40-plus.

While the villa is geared toward seniors in need of supportive care, anyone who meets the age criteria may reside there. Included in the cost of rent is a fully furnished apartment suite, all meals and snacks, resident activities, complimentary laundry, parking and health-care assistance if needed. An on-site health-care aid is available during the day as well as 24-hour on-call nursing support.

Villa manager Lorraine Dalla-Longa says the decision to end services was difficult, but tenancy fluctuations, the economic impact of COVID and her own personal healthcare needs have forced shareholders to reevaluate viability of the service.

“I met with the residents yesterday and explained all of that,” Dalla-Longa told the News.

As well as managing the facility, Dalla-Longa is one of 14 shareholders, and the only based in Medicine Hat; something villa president Brent Boechler says was also a contributing factor to the decision.

“Lorraine is the main person who’s been looking after the facility and all of the residents for years. And she just can’t do it anymore,” Boechler said. “We found her totally irreplaceable; we could not find anybody who could fill her shoes and carry on with the level of care our residents have been accustomed … So we decided we would just have to go in a different direction.”

Both Boechler and Dalla-Longa say they have only heard supportive feedback from residents and families.

Karen Weisgerber, whose mother Rose Ann Moser has been living at the villa since last year, was saddened by the announcement, but feels no anger toward shareholders for the decision.

“I was sad, because it was a great place and she enjoyed it there,” said Weisgerber. “It was kinda like a family for her.

“I think it’s just a little hard on my mom to change places. And I didn’t have a very good experience trying to find her this place in the first place. Because it’s not easy to find a place. But I totally understand why Lorraine had to do what she had to do.”

Several residents have expressed concern over the decision, specifically the time frame they have to find new accommodations which fit their care needs and budget.

“It just came as such a shock and nobody seemed to care,” one resident said. “I don’t have a lot of money and the places to live I can afford, are so few and far between.”

Boechler and Dalla-Longa say they plan to offer assistance to residents throughout their move, including connecting them with other local retirement communities and extending the move-out date, if necessary.

“If residents don’t find a place in 30 days, they can stay as long as they want until they find a place to their liking,” Dalla-Longa said. “A couple of them already found a place to live, as of yesterday after our meeting. And we’ll be working with other care homes (to place) our residents.”

Shareholders say they are still working on plans for the hotel, but did confirm Stephen Campbell, assistant manager at The Cliff Restaurant and Bar, has been hired to co-manage the hotel, alongside Dalla-Longa until her retirement.

KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News

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