Ayre Manor housing in Sooke is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. (Dawn Gibson/Sooke News Mirror)

Ayre Manor housing in Sooke is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. (Dawn Gibson/Sooke News Mirror)

Sooke’s Ayre Manor celebrates two anniversaries

Senior housing complex started in 1968

It’s an exciting year for Ayre Manor Residential Care in Sooke, as it celebrates two anniversaries: the 50th anniversary of the cottages and the 10th anniversary of the lodge building.

Ayre Manor started in 1968 when the Sooke Elderly Citizens’ Housing Society bought seven acres of land for $7,000 at the end of Ayre Road, and began building cottages to house seniors.

In 1972, the society opened the first six cottages, in 1978 it opened six more, and in 1984 another six.

Then in 2008, Ayre Manor Lodge opened, which SECHS chair Sandy Pedneault still refers to as “the new building.”

Today, Ayre Manor has 25 assisted living units, 33 complex care units, 18 independent housing units, and two hospice units, but Pedneault expects that number to grow.

The society has development permit for 58 units, and it hopes to expand in the coming years.

In order to expand, the units would need to be subsidized by the province to be affordable for seniors, and Pedneault said that’s the biggest challenge the society has always faced.

“We know that the units will be well utilized, we know we can fill them. But in order to receive funding from the province, you have to prove that they are going to be full, and that can be kind of tricky,” said Pedneault.

The expansion has been planned for about seven years, with no luck so far.

“We are going to keep rattling the doors at the Vancouver Island Health Authority, and who knows, anything can happen. All they need to know is that the suites are going to be full, but the demand is certainly there,” said Pedneault, explaining that all of the units have to be full to make it a viable operation.

“We are a non-profit and provide 24-hour care, so we couldn’t do it without the units being subsidized, in order to pay our staff decent wages.”

Approximately 50 full-time staff work at the complex, along with 25 volunteers who help out.

Pedneault said she hopes the expansion will occur within about five years, which will provide multiple different affordable housing options for seniors. Right now, there is a waiting list of about 40 people waiting to live at Ayre Manor.

“As Sooke grows and the population ages, we want to respond to that,” said Pedneault, noting the main goal for Ayre Manor is to provide affordable housing and primary health care to seniors, and to allow as many residents as possible to age in their community.

“We want people who live in Sooke to be able to age here, close to their loved ones and in their own town.”