Returning to the Rock
Newfoundlanders call it simply “away” — anywhere in the world that isn’t their beloved home province. And most Newfoundlanders “away” hope sooner or later to return.
Doreen Bennink, executive director of the new Kenny’s Pond seniors’ residence in St. John’s, is coming home after 37 years of working in nursing and senior care in Ontario and elsewhere across Canada.
She called herself “blessed” to have been in on the Kenny’s Pond project right from the beginning and to help shape it to fit the cultural needs of Newfoundlanders.
“You couldn’t build the same building here as in, say, Calgary,” Doreen says. “It had to be designed in a way that reflects Newfoundland and brings everything from the typical colours to the culture into the building.”
The local flavour extends to the types of activities available to the seniors who will occupy the 112 suites. They include carpentry and horticulture. “The woodworking shop is quite unusual for a seniors’ residence,” Doreen says. “But many of the men here have built their own homes or have been shipbuilders. It’s a common thing for men to be working with wood. So they can bring in their tools and sit there and make little boats or toys or whatever.
“Most people here, too, have grown vegetables and flowers. Flowers are a big thing in people’s windows. You look at the row houses and at all the African violets and geraniums in the windows. So that’s another part of our heritage we planned into the building.”
Even the location is an important feature of St. John’s. Kenny’s Pond is part of the Grand Concourse, an integrated walkway system with 120 kilometres of paths linking parks, rivers and seven ponds.
“Kenny’s Pond is one of them,” Doreen says. “To be on this pond is quite something. It means that our building has a perfectly level walking track for residents. That’s an important part of our fitness program.”
The fitness centre will offer yoga and Tai Chi classes and workout equipment that Doreen describes as “joint-sensitive.”
The residence also caters to the mind, she says. There’s a movie theatre—with an old-fashioned popcorn machine—that will double as a lecture hall. “A lot of our clientele have been professionals,” she says. “They’re very into seminars, politics, the fishing industry, you name it.”
Some other senior staff members are also transplanted Newfoundlanders now returning home. And Doreen says she’s getting lots of calls from senior citizens “who are ‘away’ and now want to come back.
“This place is one-of-a-kind. This is huge for me to be returning home and to bring this here.”