M’Chigeeng plans culture-based seniors’ lodge

by Stacey Lavallie

M’CHIGEENG—Nurturing the spirit, celebrating individuality, involving friends and family, encouraging independence and enabling freedom of choice are just some of the primary goals of a new assisted-living centre being proposed for M’Chigeeng.

The project, dubbed ‘Ojibwa Lodge,’ is expected to break ground in the spring, according to project chair Grace Fox.

The project is the brainchild of Anishinaabemowin Gamig, the elders language activity centre, located in M’Chigeeng. The centre, started in the spring of 2008 by a group of volunteers who wished to preserve and promote their language, has adopted the mantra “dream today in order to plan for tomorrow.”

“It’s important to our elders that they can go somewhere and speak their language,” Ms. Fox explained. “They don’t want to lose the language and its history, but sometimes they aren’t comfortable speaking it because other people don’t speak it.”

With a large number of the M’Chigeeng population aging, and with more than 65 people who will be considered senior citizens within the next 10 years, Anishinaabemowin Gamig’s board began looking at options available to them to help meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the elders of the community.

The board looked at three assisted-living residences on similar First Nation communities to see what sort of services should be provided, as well as an idea of costs and challenges the board would face in opening its own centre.

The board at Anishinaabemowin Gamig also reached out to people in the community, asking them a series of questions to help it understand the needs of its clientele.

Through the questionnaire, it was determined that respect, spiritual nurturing, individuality, freedom of choice, independence, family and friends were the most important factors to the people who would make use of Ojibwe Lodge.

The group applied for funding assistance from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and received a grant that is allowing them to get the project underway, Ms. Fox explained.

The goal is to provide each resident with his or her own private apartment, with a mixture of public spaces. Each person is able to live independently, but has staff on hand to help them with the tasks of daily living.

Currently, the land where the facility is going to be built has been cleared, but Ms. Fox said the actual building won’t begin until the spring. She said at that point, Anishinaabemowin Gamig will likely move within the facility itself as part of the organization.