On a sunny afternoon last week Jerry Harper was doing what Jerry Harper excels at – talking about his favourite sports of track and field and running.
He was relating a recent meeting of the Cayman Islands Athletic Association, plans for the St. Ignatius Run, runs for Cinco de Mayo and the Heart Fund as well as plans for his birthday, which happens to fall on 5 May. He reckons he’ll celebrate following the run at a Mexican cantina on Seven Mile Beach.
To the casual observer, Mr. Harper hasn’t missed a beat and, technically, he hasn’t. The only difference is that he is now holding sports court from his private room at the Pines Retirement Home instead of his Crewe Road apartment.
On this particular afternoon, he’s in his bed letting his legs rest with newspapers surrounding him. His talk is about the articles he has planned, the upcoming Cayman Invitational, Cydonie Mothersill and more.
“A lady even brought me in a book she’s written, so I can edit it,” he said. “I’m staying very busy.”
So busy, he tells the nurse, that he’ll probably have to skip his daily assisted walk.
Mr. Harper is just one of the 35 residents at the new Pines Retirement Home.
“He’s a very happy resident,” said Lynda Mitchell, acting manager at the Pines.
There have been a couple of staff changes at the retirement home, but the biggest change has been for the residents and the staff that take care of them.
The gleaming new three-storey structure hasn’t yet been officially opened; there is still some work being done on the kitchen, which served the older facility and has been tied into the new building.
“Financially we’re sound, the building fund is sound,” said Colin Shaw, vice chairman of the Pines board of directors. “The residents are comfortable. They’re very well looked after in a world-class facility.”
Most of the $7.2 million needed to build the new home came from private donations, with about $1.5 million coming from government.
At the forefront of getting the facility built was Arch and Godfrey, with Heber Arch taking the lead.
“Whenever we had a problem, he would solve it,” Mr. Shaw said. “We pretty much got it done in budget. We are very proud of what we’ve managed to put together for $7.2 million.”
The new building has space to house 50 residents, which will be needed as the population in the Cayman Islands continues to age. Day residents are also accepted.
There are 40 people on staff and different groups come in and help. Many private individuals have taken on the tasks of gardening and supplying outdoor seating venues. There are so many people who have volunteered their time and money that the Pines has plans to list them, eventually, on a display in the reception area.
Rooms at the Pines are on the first and second floors, with administration, a board room, storage and mechanical room occupying the third floor. There’s even a staff lounge complete with kitchen, sitting area and lavatory that will become a hurricane shelter if needed. During Hurricane Ivan in 2004, residents had to be evacuated to a shelter in Prospect – a daunting task.
In the new facility, residents and family members have the choice of a private room, four-bed rooms or six-bed rooms.
The residents, said head nurse Jusene Brown, love it. “Everyone has their own closets. I think it’s very homey. There is more space to work with. It was hard to do care in the other building,” she said.
The old building has been demolished and the grounds will eventually be planted.
It will be available in the future for expansion, when needed.
On this day there were about a dozen residents in the Day Room listening to Pastor Locksley Mitchell strum hymns on his guitar for a sing-a-long.
Watching over the charges were volunteers and staff, including Margaret Lue, who has been at the Pines for 27 years.
When asked what she does there, she replies, “Everything and one.”
Ms Lue drives the bus for weekly outings and keeps up with the timing, events and people coming in. She can spout off the weekly calendar without skipping a beat, all the while toting cleaning supplies and offering a gentle word and a smile to residents.
“There’s been a lot of changes,” she said, but she likes the larger facility. “To me, it could be a little more homey.”
Mr. Shaw agrees, “Maybe we need to be looking for old furniture; something that doesn’t look so new and shiny.”
Plans are to hold a grand opening once the kitchen and laundry facilities have been completed and the home is ready for presentation to the public. The event will be sometime after the 22 May general election.
About the Pines
The Pines is a nonprofit charitable organisation that was established to provide residential accommodation for the elderly. The Pines was formally opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1983 as a retirement home, primarily to meet the needs of independent elderly citizens during retirement. The objectives of the home have shifted over the years from being a retirement home to a nursing home, in response to the needs of the community and the high care requirements of many residents.