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By Rhonda Spivak, June 16, 2011

I had never been to Shaftesbury Park before (the closest I’ve gotten to is Assiniboine Park!) , and on my recent visit I was greeted by Avril Kettner, the marketing director who explained that Shaftesbury Park  is a senior’s residence which has a  ‘younger building’ (it is only 3 years old ) and is a “hub” of activity,’ with 183 suites and well over 200  people.
It wasn’t long before I saw Laurie Mainster, who has long been active in Winnipeg’s Jewish Community and has been involved in past years organizing our  Mameloshen Festival of Yiddish Culture.
Mainster said, “It [Shafetsbury Park] is an excellent facility. There’s a lot of camaraderie here. It keeps you busy. I look forward to lunch and dinners [for socializing]. It’s a big asset that there’s activities all of the time.”
I had an opportunity to chat with Oscar Antel. He and his wife were one of the very first to move into the facility when there were only 40 apartments available. “We were trend setters,” he said. “Many of our friends came after.”
In fact, Antel said, “Most of the people  I went to school with in grade one in Peretz School are here.” He chuckled and added “It’s been so long that there’s some that you  can’t remember why you didn’t like them.” (the most memorable line of my visit!)
He also noted that “Friday afternoon is happy hour but we pour the drinks in half ounces.”
Antel said that he decided to move to the Shaftesbury because his wife has health concerns that necessitated them to leave their home  and  he couldn’t look after her. “Here we don’t have to cook or shop…I think if we weren’t here my wife would have to be in the Simkin Centre. Just being here is good for her-- she’s talking to people, and she’s stabilized,” he said.
Antel noted that people sometimes wait too long before they enter a senior’s residence. “They should come before they are too ripe, and can take advantage of all of the activities offered.”
According to  Vivian Bicknell, executive director of Shaftesbury Park, there is a wait list to get into the Shaftsbury, so those interested should not delay in signing themselves up. “We want all those who will benefit from everything Shaftesbury Park has to offer, to benefit. We work very hard at managing the waitlist, but if you do not apply, it is difficult to keep you in mind as we have suites come available.”
Avril pointed out that there is “no reserved seating” in the spacious dining room, such that residents are encouraged to sit with people they may not know already and meet each other. The “open seating” is in keeping with the “casual” “relaxed” feeling of the place, she said. Old friendships exist and new friendships are formed.  Two meals a day are served where there are always two entrees offered.
The food is not kosher, but Avril said that the chef works very hard to ensure options are available and there is, for example, “Matzah on the table every day at Passover.” There is also a private dining room that families can reserve.

The facility is owned by the Kuhl family, a Jewish family from Toronto. “ They are one of the oldest, most respected and accomplished names in the retirement residence field," said Vivian.

Rabbi Shmuely Altein of Chabad Lubavitch lives in the house right next to the facility and comes every Friday night to hold a “Kabbalah Shabbat service” which Avril said is “well-attended.” She added that the facility also offers “transportation to any shul a resident wants to attend.”

Avril noted that there are also other denominations who come to the facility to conduct services for residents who wish to attend. Other tenants are also taken via the Shuttle to Sunday services they wish to attend throughout the city.
Antel, a retired accountant, said that after Rabbi Shmuely Altein’s Kabbalah Shabbat service, he reads Yiddish stories and Yitzi Jacobs sings songs. Rabbi Shmuely also conducts Rosh Hashanah Services on site. He also attends for Purim and Chanukah menorah lightings.
The facility has a multi-purpose room, with a kitchen where families can have family dinners, birthdays, a pesach seder, or other celebrations/life cycle events. For Purim, the residents used the facility to make homentaschen. As we were chatting, Mrs. Sara Pitch popped in to say “hello” as she was going to play tennis.
The facility has a beautiful movie theatre, where movies are shown 3-4 times a week. There’s a Gym, as well as a number of exercise classes for tenants: sit and stretch, sit, stand and stretch, yoga, zumba, and Tai Chi, Wii Bowling . The Shaftesbury Shuttle  provides transportation to medical appointments, for banking and to various shopping destinations, as well as to the Rady Centre .  The  robust Health And Wellness programming  includes everything listed above as well as bridge, mahjong, and kalkii.  During my visit, there was a lecture on the health value of chocolate.
For the convenience of the residents there is a Tuck Shop right on the premises where residents “can get whatever they need” including Gunn’s Bakery bread, etc.
On my visit I got to peak into Fritzi Telpner’s cheerful suite (my own house has never appeared so orderly!) and was told that there are parking spots available for residents who drive.
Both Mainster and Antel said that the philosophy at Shaftesbury Park is “to build a comm
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.