Unique facility in Barbados to focus on health and wellness
October 2, 2019
Seeing his late father host elderly residents from the Dharm Shala Seniors Home on weekends ranks among Neil Prashad’s fondest childhood memories.
“I went with my dad to the facility which was a very dismal place,” he recalled. “Often times, he would bring about two of the residents to our home where he would clean them up, feed them and just make them feel good and comfortable for a few hours.”
The benevolent act inspired Prashad who was born and raised in Albouystown which is a challenged Guyanese neighbourhood.
“A light bulb went off in my head,” he said. “I saw older people as been vulnerable, yet very important.”
Coming to Canada in 1970 to join his mother, Leila Montgomery, who was a nurse at Owen Sound General & Marine Hospital, Prashad did his undergraduate degree in Urban Planning at the University of Waterloo. His thesis focused on the re-use of surplus school sites for conversion to senior facilities.
“In a very naïve way, it kind of connected for me a natural interest in older people and I thought that as an urban planner, that made sense,” he said. “In the last 30 years, I have done three school sites, but I understood at the same time that I needed to enhance my knowledge in the area.”
With two Master’s degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he focused on developing ‘Continuing Care Retirement Communities’ and Health Care Administration certification from the Harvard Business School, Prashad returned to Canada in the late 1980s after being away for four years.
“I was very focused on the business of design, marketing and operation of a full spectrum of seniors’ facilities that allow people to age gracefully,” he said.
Part of the group that started Amica Mature Lifestyles in 1996, Prashad went on his own in 2002, launching Origin Active Lifestyle Communities Inc. that develops and operates state-of-the-art housing and health care facilities that feature fully integrated amenity and service networks that cater to the needs of seniors.
“The human body, as it ages, starts to break down and help is needed,” said the company’s President & Chief Executive Officer. “The global ageing phenomenon has little to do with extended family. When someone has dementia and need chronic care, you physically can’t do those things in someone’s home. It is very much of a needs-driven business. One of the key reasons I felt I needed to go on my own was because I had a different vision of what it meant to what those services are like that we are going to offer people. The programs and services that underpin our operations are embodied in robust policies and procedures collectively called ‘The Origin Way’.”
Since 2009, the company has been actively pursuing international operating relationships with investors in China, Central Europe, South America and the Caribbean.
A seniors’ facility was opened in Poland in 2018 and earlier this year, Origin announced it will manage ‘The Estates at St. George’ in Barbados. The other partners in this project are Sagicor and the Barbados Community College (BCC).
Consisting of 176 elegantly appointed independent living condominiums, 68 catered living suites and 84 Skilled Nursing & Memory Suites, ‘The Estates at St. George’ will also boast a Wellness Centre with a gym, a holistic spa, 24/7 Urgent Care, Doctor’s office and medical centre, coffee shop, a clubhouse featuring a restaurant and pub as well as tennis, pools and walking trails on 19 pastoral acres.
Noting that the facility is a groundbreaker for the Caribbean, Prashad said it will set the benchmark for what it means to age with grace surrounded by world-class supportive services.
“When you look around, there aren’t a lot of places like this that cater to people of Caribbean heritage,” he said. “In Barbados, you will find people who understand your culture, history and the type of wellness strategy that suits you. We have created on one campus what exists in Canada and the United States in multiple buildings all over the place.”
Last June, Sagicor – a leading financial services provider in the Caribbean -- signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the BCC to provide a framework for learning and enhancing training in senior care, specifically for ‘The Estates at St. George’.
“This signing is an important step towards the implementation of what we anticipate will be a series of programs which have embedded in the prospectus new and divergent research that addresses key aspects of caring for the elderly,” said Sagicor Financial Corporation Group President & Chief Executive Officer Dr. Jeannine Comma. “What will be different with this initiative is that we will also strive to ensure that we weave our Barbadian cultural mores into the fabric of the programs as those customs, values and traditions should be reignited and positively celebrated and practiced. The warmth and sensitivity of our people is what makes us who we are and we must ensure that our caregivers reconnect with that ethos in their care of our seniors.”
Che Marville, Origin’s Vice-President of Culture, Team Engagement & Wellness, praised Sagicor’s involvement.
“As one of the oldest insurance companies in the Caribbean, Sagicor has made a substantial statement in sponsoring this multi-generational community dedicated to health and wellbeing not just in its investment, but in the future of the new worker in the healthcare and hospitality industry,” she added.
Prashad found out about the opportunity to do business in Barbados while vacationing on the island.
“My mom spends a few weeks there during the winter,” he said. “When I learnt about the opportunity, I jumped on it.”
Origin is constantly seeking to partner with enlightened institutional and private equity investors and developers that are keen to get a foothold in the rapidly expanding retirement housing industry.
“We are open minded, flexible and entrepreneurial and we work very hard to leverage our global perspective and expertise in the development and operation of first-class retirement communities that are truly local market-driven solutions,” said Prashad who is a past chair of the Advisory Working Group on Seniors Housing for Peel. “Origin is a rare assembly of talented and experienced industry professionals who all share a common passion for caring and a fundamental commitment to ethical and moral responsibility.”
The Origin group also includes a Life Academy that trains companions, care aides and health care workers and Club Origin that offers attractive destinations for clients.
“There are elderly people out there who enjoy travelling,” said Prashad. “Vancouver Island is the only piece of real estate in Canada that doesn’t freeze over in February and it’s the only place in Canada that you can play golf 365 days a year and your universal health care is covered.”
In addition to Vancouver Island, Origin built and operates three communities in Alberta and another seven is in the pipeline, the majority in Ontario.
‘The Estates at St. George’ Canadian sales launch takes place on Saturday, October 19 at Scarboro Golf & Country Club, 321 Scarborough Golf Club Rd. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and there will be an opportunity to win airfare for two to Barbados.