It was October 24, 1970, that the Union Villa Long-Term Care opened in the heart of Unionville welcoming the first residents to their new home. It was the culmination of years of work by Unionville Home Society’s founders which was led by Rev. Lloyd Wiseman. They undertook the task of bringing suitable seniors’ housing to Markham and Unionville.
“Union Villa was created out of the need for a local residence for Markham’s aging population,” CEO Abby Katz Starr said. “Prior to welcoming our first residents in 1970, families would have to send their loved ones away from their familiar surroundings. Today, we have continued to meet the changing needs of Markham’s seniors and our rapidly growing community.”
This fall, the Union Villa Long-Term Care Home will be celebrating 50 years of service to the community. As the Villa reaches this milestone, Maria Dimson, Director, Development and Communications emphasized that this is not merely a celebration of a bricks-and-mortar building, but 50 years of providing over 2,500 seniors with a place to call home.
Union Villa’s operations are supported in part by an active and vibrant foundation. Due to COVID-19, many of the foundation’s special events, such as the Garden by the Greens event and the annual golf tournament, were cancelled. However, staff and volunteers have been hard at work reimagining Union Villa’s signature Dinner Party this November.
Participants can expect 50 hours of virtual events to mark 50 years of supporting seniors starting on November 4 at 5 p.m. The event will include special guest messages; online auctions; a giving zone to fund resident needs; and a Dinner Party at Home experience which will include a gourmet meal, flowers, beverages delivered to the participant’s home to share with their social circle.
“Year after year, this fundraiser helps Union Villa feel like a home,” Dimson said. “It supports programs that encourage independence, build confidence and increase well-being, including music therapy, clown therapy, live performances and others. None of these would exist without the exceptional generosity of our donors.”
This year’s Dinner Party will also be a celebration of Union Villa’s staff and volunteers, some of whom have been serving the home’s residents since its founding.
“Our wonderful, dedicated, and caring staff and volunteers make all our work possible,” Katz Starr said. “During these challenging times, our staff have shown resilience, adapted resident experiences to ensure continued quality of life, and kept our home safe for the residents and their fellow colleagues. As family have not been able to spend the kind of time that they would typically do, our staff have stepped in to spend that quality time with the residents, keeping them engaged and loved.”
Beyond the Villa, Unionville Home Society has expanded its reach over the years to include independent living, life-lease apartments, an Adult Day Program, geriatric outreach services, and a Seniors Active Living Centre.
“This milestone has provided the ideal opportunity for our organization to take stock, celebrate successes, reflect on the past, and look toward the future,” Katz Starr said. “Our organization has completed a strategic plan that will focus on innovative seniors’ care that will respond to the needs of our current and future clients, and the changing nature of long-term care. Together, we will work towards a thriving organization and healthy workplace culture that enhances the experience of aging, one person at a time.”
For details on Union Villa, the upcoming Dinner Party, and how to get engaged, visit www.uhs.on.ca/union-villa.
Photo (l-r): Maria and Isabella are current residents who met at the Union Villa Long-Term Care Home and have become friends.