Comfort and Family Connection: Aging in Place in University District

March 23, 2022 by University District

We sat down with residents Nirmal & Balbir Sandhu, and listened to their story on what brought them to University District. They shared with us how they’ve made U/D home and the ways it has enhanced their daily lives.

Nirmal and Balbir have always had a strong focus on family. They called Winnipeg home for most of their lives – since 1964. They got married in Winnipeg, they raised their two children, and laid their roots there. Balbir (Mr. Sandhu) worked as an electrical engineer with Manitoba Hydro for close to 50 years. His wife Nirmal (Mrs. Sandhu) holds a Bachelor of Education, and she first started working at Manitoba Telephone System, then for many years she taught English as a Second Language, as well as teaching driver education in schools. 

Eventually, their children grew up, attended university, and started families of their own,  both settling in Northwest Calgary. Their daughter Dr. Preet Sandhu works as a Pediatrician at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, while their son Dr. Manjot Sandhu is an Anesthesiologist. 

Mr. and Mrs. Sandhu had a home in Varsity Village, which they used when they would go back and forth between being in Winnipeg and Calgary, but when a progressive neurological disorder began impacting Balbir’s health, the family decided it was time to all be together permanently in Calgary.

Mrs. Sandhu learned about Maple (by Truman) and Cambridge Manor (by The Brenda Strafford Foundation) by driving through University District with her son in 2018. She liked the idea of being able to have her own space, while being able to support her husband when the time came that he would need more care. They purchased immediately, and with excitement watched the building take shape as it was constructed. 

Maple is a 55+ Independent Seniors residential building developed by Truman suited to older adults with an active and social lifestyle who are seeking a community rich in services and experiences. 

Cambridge Manor is a continuing care site owned and operated by The Brenda Strafford Foundation, offering Assisted Living, Long-Term Care and Memory Care for seniors. The two buildings, conveniently connected by a +30 walkway, were designed with the vision to better support seniors to age in place within the University District. The unique concept enables convenient access to services and amenities to maintain independence as residents age, creating an environment that supports families with different care needs to remain connected, even as their care needs may continue to change over time.

When Mr. Sandhu experienced a stroke, the family knew they would need dedicated care for him more quickly than first anticipated. Thankfully, Mrs. Sandhu could move into their unit in Maple, while Mr. Sandhu started receiving care at Cambridge Manor. 

The move was a big change for them both, leaving the city they had known for decades, and moving from a seven-bedroom home to a two-bedroom condominium. But the welcoming nature of Maple and Cambridge Manor made the adjustment much easier. She says, “Everyone is so close. The residents in Maple are very friendly, and it’s very quiet. I can walk to so many places and see my husband multiple times a day.”

A unique aspect of Maple and Cambridge Manor is how they are physically connected by a +30 walkway, providing easy access between the two spaces. Mrs. Sandhu likes to joke that, “I feel like my husband and I still live together. It’s like we’re in a big palace, and that we occupy two different wings.”

Today, with regular visits from her children and grandchildren, the family can spend time together, both in Mrs. Sandhu’s unit in Maple and with Mr. Sandhu in Cambridge Manor.  

Their daughter Preet regularly stops in before or after her shift at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, while their son Manjot exercises nearby at Orangetheory fitness, regularly dropping off groceries for his mom. The grandchildren love visiting with their “Naniji” at the nearby playground, which is just a short stroll away for Mrs. Sandhu. 

While COVID-19 adjusted everyone’s lives, Mrs. Sandhu has appreciated the chance to walk on her own in University District, meeting new people and enjoying hobbies. The surrounding pathways are cleared in the winter months, giving her a sense of safety and plenty of independence. She can walk to her daughter’s home in Varsity Village, and enjoys dining along University Avenue. 

Mrs. Sandhu is comforted knowing that her husband is in good hands at Cambridge Manor. She says, “The care is excellent – the people are nice, and they really take care of everyone. They truly want to help, and they are always respectful and kind. The space itself is beautiful – there are large rooms, big windows and wide hallways. It’s very well structured and organized.” 

Moving to a new city and new home can be difficult at any age and stage of life, particularly when the health of a loved one is impacted. The Sandhus recognize that so many are facing challenging decisions about how to best take care of aging family members. Mrs. Sandhu has some wise advice. She says, “The sooner you can make a decision about where you can live and care for each other, the better it is. It takes time to adjust to a new environment for the whole family, but know that comfort, care and new lifestyle opportunities are ready for you. I feel so comfortable here.” 

With a smile, Mrs. Sandhu shares that she calls her new Calgary home and lifestyle: “The new Nirmal”.

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