Sisters give old hospital new life 0
No matter where life takes Keli Mehlenbacher and Kim Janjic, the journey always ends up back where it started - Bancroft.
The twin sisters were born at the Bancroft hospital but their family moved to Hamilton when their paternal grandfather was killed in a car accident. He owned a nursing home and the responsibility for managing it now fell to his son.
The family kept its ties to Bancroft by returning each summer to their cottage. And it was during a summer visit a couple of years ago that the sisters asked a neighbour, who just happened to be a real estate agent, if the former Red Cross outpost hospital where they'd been born had been sold.
When they found out that it was still available, they decided to bring all aspects of their life together. They've spent months transforming the hospital into the Riverstone Residence. Last Friday, they hosted an open house and invited the public to see what they've achieved.
"Our dad's our inspiration," says Keli. Asked if he thought it was crazy to take on such a project, "he said we'd be crazy if we didn't."
Annice Brown was one of the first residents to move into one of the 30 apartment-like units in June. She lived in Bowmanville but her daughter cottages in the area for six months of the year and her grandson lives here year round. Moving has been an adjustment but the staff has made it easier. "I feel like I've known them all my life already."
Described as a retirement residence, Riverstone lets people enjoy their privacy while also providing them with a sense of community. The staff take care of all cooking, housekeeping and laundry services and there are communal areas where people can gather. Activities are planned throughout the week. There is not, however, nursing care, although help is available through the access centre.
"A lot of times people can become isolated and lonely (in their own homes) so they come here for the stimulation," says Kim. It's better if they don't have to leave the area to find appropriate housing. Their families also value the safety and security that Riverstone can offer while keeping families close together.
As the sisters began the transformation of the old hospital into a retirement residence, Kim says they were very impressed with the caliber of help they found in Bancroft. "We have a fabulous staff here. I can't believe the staffing pool we could draw from. Amazing people."
Their families still own two residences in Hamilton. The sisters are going to split their time between Hamilton and Bancroft.
Units are available. There will be an official opening in the fall to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the opening of the hospital.